January 30, 2004
Israeli Military Vehicles
[Bethlehem, West Bank] It was tough
for me to sleep last night, so at 2:30 am I finally gave up. I
climbed to my roof to see if anything was happening in Bethlehem.
There I heard the terrible buzz of the unmanned drone plane flying
overhead. It passed back and forth, over and over. It was impossible
to see in the darkness, but unfortunately not impossible to hear.
An hour after that, the drone was joined by military helicopters
making the same passes. The helicopters were loud enough to scare
the cats out of the garbage bins, especially when a few bursts
of shots were fired. The shooting got the dogs and donkeys involved
too. The old bells at Nativity Church rang briefly at 4:00 am,
and there was a short message from a local mosque at 4:05. In
the distance I saw two military vehicles entering Bethlehem from
the east. They slowly drove near my community, but I couldn't
tell exactly what they were doing. They had a spotlight on some
of the buildings as they drove by. At 5:00, three more Israeli
military vehicles -- two jeeps and a truck -- passed my apartment
several times. Another jeep started up the road, but then turned
off its lights and waited in the street for a while. And at 5:30
the bells rang at Nativity Church again. The night brought back
a lot of old (but not good) memories of life in Bethlehem. At
least the streets around here were free of tanks. I thought that
we would be under curfew, so I went to bed for a couple of hours.
But now it's morning and the soldiers are gone.
The Associate Press said that about
20 Israeli military vehicles entered Bethlehem in an operation
that appeared limited to arresting suspects and possibly destroying
the house where the bomber lived -- in the Aida refugee camp.
Israeli forces instructed Palestinian security officers to abandon
checkpoints outside Bethlehem, and troops moved into the town,
residents said. Israeli military officials, speaking on condition
of anonymity, would say only an operation was in progress.
Haaretz reported that Israel Defense
Forces troops entered Bethlehem on Friday for the first time in
six months in a sweep for militants after a Palestinian policeman
from the West Bank city killed 10 people in a suicide bombing
on a Jerusalem bus. Palestinian witnesses said armored vehicles
rumbled into Bethlehem before daybreak and troops fanned out to
search houses, including one where the policeman - a member of
the militant Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades - was thought to have lived.
IDF troops were preparing Friday morning to demolish the terrorist's
house, which his family has evacuated, Israel Radio said. Witnesses
said soldiers detained 12 Palestinians. About 15 armored vehicles
took part in the operation.