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August 28, 2001
Israeli Occupation Forces Hold Palestinian Children Hostage

From PMC


Israeli Occupation Forces Hold Palestinian Children Hostage

Using Children as Human Shields

28 August 2001
Palestine Media Center PMC

Since last night, Israeli occupation forces occupied the Virgin Mary Church, an adjacent hostel under construction, and the Beit Ibrahim guesthouse, used for meetings between Christian, Moslem, and Jewish spiritual leaders.

The Palestine Media Center contacted Father Khadder Musallam, the host father at the Evangelical Lutheran House, a boarding home for children from broken families, to get an accurate account of the events. Father Musallam told PMC the following:

Currently there are forty-five children, ages 6 to 17 as well as four educators in addition to me in the Boarding home. Israeli occupation forces are holding us hostage and using us as human shields.

At around 1:00am, a secretary working in the school called us and informed me that Israeli occupation troops had begun an incursion into Beit Jala. When I looked outside, I could see the tanks approaching.
Since the children sleep in the upper levels of our five-story building, I went upstairs and calmly woke them up. I explained to the children the situation and asked them to get dressed quickly and come down stairs.
As soon as the children and the teachers were downstairs, our building, the Church, and the adjacent buildings in the compound were under attack. When I peeked from the window, it seemed as if it was raining bullets and tank shells on Beit Jala. The view was terrifying.
Suddenly, we heard violent banging on the window and the doors of the guesthouse. I saw an Israeli soldier peeking through the window and banging it. When I approached him, he demanded that I give him the key to the guesthouse. I told the soldier that this is a Church and that he had no right to come in. The soldier quickly replied that this issue was irrelevant and that I should not argue with him. I then told him that there are children here. To that he said, "I know". When I insisted on refusing, he pointed his rifle at my head and demanded the keys again. I had no choice but to comply. They are now stationed at the rooftops. They fire towards Beit Jala knowing that they are placing us directly in harm's way.
I moved the children to the basement and then quickly called the authorities in Beit Jala and informed them of the situation. They informed me that so far, one Palestinian officer has been martyred and at least seventeen civilians were injured. I was then assured that they would not respond to the Israeli fire coming from our rooftops in order to ensure our safety.