Resolved to survive deplorable human conditions and severe financial crunch, Palestinians are resorting to primitive means to make ends meet in view of the aid freeze by the West since the new Hamas-led government came to power.

Suffering a severe food and fuel shortage, many Palestinians have sought to produce basic staples like bread and use wood as a source of energy, Reuters reported Friday, May 13.
"I have to use this primitive method to save money and feed my children," said Hind Ahmad, a Palestinian school principal.

At her home in the village of Kufr Ein, near Ramallah, the 52-year-old woman is using wood to cook and bake bread in a makeshift clay over to feed her children.

She said she was relying on rice she had bought before and vegetables planted in her back yard.

Hind is one of 165,000 Palestinian employee who have been unpaid for two months after the United States and the European Union suspended direct aid to the new Palestinian government.

Israel has further stopped transferring customs duties worth around $50 million a month and previously collected for the Palestinian Authority.

The United Nations has warned that the Palestinians are on the verge of a humanitarian crisis due to severe shortage of food and medicine.

Using Donkeys

Many Palestinians have further given up public transport to save some money.
Hind's male colleagues started using donkeys to get to school.

In hard times, Um Mohammad, another teacher in Kufr Ein and a mother of eight two of whom are university students, is acting with a sense of responsibility.
"I never cooked on wood and I am allergic to smoke but I have to save money in every way possible, no matter how primitive it is. This is my responsibility," she said.

Um Mohammed said she was also thinking of selling her jewellery, although so far her parents and brothers were helping her make do with daily living expenses.
"I only want to see the kids graduate. Nothing more. In the village, we can live on land," she said.

Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza have sought to sell their gold coins and bracelets, which are traditionally a person's last source of wealth in the Arab world, next to land, to try to get together enough money to buy food.

Many fund-raising campaigns have been launched in many Arab and Muslim countries for the Palestinians.

The Arab Doctors Union launched on May 5, in Cairo an ambitious campaign throughout the Arab world to raise one billion euros for the Palestinians.

Arab League Secretary General Amr Moussa told Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Thursday, May 12, the League would not be able to transfer funds directly to the Palestinians.

Several banks have refused to transfer millions of dollars donated by Arabs and Muslims or some governments to the Palestinian Authority fearing American sanctions.

The Arab Bank, which holds some 30,000 accounts of PA workers, refrained from accepting such transfer after the US threatened to deem this as assistance to Hamas.

A report by Israel's Haaretz daily on May 4 said that several initiatives by donor states to get money directly to the Palestinians are being thwarted by the US.

Source: IOL- West Bank


The main United Nations agency helping Palestinian refugees reported today that an Israeli operation in the Balata refugee camp in the West Bank town of Nablus has been hampering its work since early yesterday.

The UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) reported that Israeli forces moved yesterday morning to occupy two schools it runs in the camp. The Israelis continued to occupy the boys’ school after leaving the girls’ school today, UNRWA reported.

At the same time, agency officials reported that the Israeli forces continue to block a health clinic, which prevents patients or staff from leaving the building.

Created in 1950, Balata is the largest West Bank camp with a registered refugee population of about 21,000. In early 1994, the Refugee Committee to Defend Refugee Rights was established in Balata, which lies within the municipal boundaries of Nablus.

UNRWA was created by a 1949 UN General Assembly resolution to carry out direct relief and works programmes for Palestine refugees after the 1948 Arab-Israeli conflict.

Source: UN News Centre- 20/2/2006


Palestinian sources revealed on Tuesday that the UNRWA has made a decision to reduce food rations distributed every three months to the refugees. The decision aims at paving the way, the sources added, for the complete cancellation of all food rations within the next two years.

According to the sources, the UNRWA director in Lebanon, Richard Cook, recently issued a decision stipulating a 55-percent reduction in food rations. They added that flour, which had formerly been supplied alongside other foods, will no longer be distributed.

Food rations have been distributed to Palestinian refugees since 1948, but over the years donor countries have decreased their contributions, resulting in a reduction of available funds with which to provide the rations. Palestinian sources were concerned by information leaked from UNRWA headquarters that services extended to refugees, such as the rations and health care, would end in the coming two years, especially after UNRWA slashed the number of workers who distribute the rations.

Currently, a single team of 10 UNRWA employees handle the rations distribution in each of the five districts where refugee camps are located in Lebanon, whereas previously teams of 10 were present in each camp.
UNRWA members could not be contacted for comment.

Meanwhile, Palestinian popular committees continued their protest against a related UNRWA decision to cut medical coverage, once more closing down the agency's clinics and health centers in refugee camps across the country, a claim the UNRWA refutes.

The protests were stepped up after a meeting scheduled to be held in Sidon between Cook and Palestinian Liberation Organization committees was canceled and relocated to UNRWA headquarters in Beirut.
Lieutenant Colonel Abu Said al-Youssef, a member of the Higher Follow-Up Committee of popular committees in Lebanon, said the Palestinians have yet to see a positive response from Cook, despite contacts made by the PLO commander in Lebanon and the popular committees.

Youssef said the protests will continue until the UNRWA meets the refugees' "fair" demands, most notably the reversal of this month's decision to partner with the Beirut General University Hospital (BGUH) instead of the Hammoud Hospital in Sidon.

The committees' information official Abu Rabih Derbas said: "Violating our people's rights for services is strictly forbidden," adding that the refugees will counter "UNRWA's arbitrary policy with further popular action."
The health-care decision reportedly also includes a care reduction to a third-grade level.

But according to a UNRWA statement issued in response to an article published in Tuesday's edition of The Daily Star, the "UNRWA has not reduced the quality nor quantity of medical care provided to Palestinian refugees, rather the contrary."

The statement read: "A new agreement has indeed been signed between UNRWA and the BGUH for the treatment of cold cases of tertiary nature (i.e. treatment of a specialized nature requiring multi-specialty interventions).
"The decision was made with the best interests of the Palestinian refugee patients in mind, because it gives him or her first-class treatment at a very reasonable cost, whilst UNRWA's contribution remains the same, thereby reducing the cost to the patient.

"In addition, the majority of patients treated, who come from all over Lebanon, will have less distance to travel.
"UNRWA would like, particularly, to point out that this applies to tertiary care and that all arrangements for the provision of secondary hospital care, i.e. uncomplicated cases, and for open-heart surgery, remain the same as in previous years, provided at contracted hospitals in each area."

The statement further stressed that UNRWA "is not handing over its medical services to the government health-care system, but has taken advantage of high-quality services provided at a competitive price, thereby improving its services to Palestine refugees.

The statement indicated that, contrary to Palestinian claims that certain medicines were no longer available, "the agency confirms that all essential drugs, for both acute and chronic needs, in accordance with the World Health Organization's list of essential drugs, are available at all UNRWA health centers."

The director of UNRWA affairs in Lebanon is to meet with Palestinian Popular Committees and senior representatives of the refugee community in "the next few days to further explain the Agency's position on these issues," the statement said.

Source: Mohammed Zaatari - Daily Star staff- 18/1/2006
Over 353 dunums lie ten thousand human beings in an area called Qalandia, five kilometers south of Ramallah and eleven kilometers north of Jerusalem, besieged by five Zionist settlements, in an unending cycle of suffering, thrust from a calamity to the next. Such is the fate of this people displaced from its land since the beginning of this century.

From 48 villages cleansed from their Palestinian inhabitants, such as Beir Ama’in, Saris, Ashu’, Birfilia; and the four cities of al-Lidd, Jaffa, ar-Rmala and Jerusalem originate the residents of this camp, who mostly shared blood ties before the Nakba. Also to be found in this camp a Lebanese family by the name of “al-Beiruti”, who had come to pay a visit to some relatives in Palestine before the Nakba and was destined to remain in a state of forced asylum that continues to the day. 53 familes joined the camp after the 1967 Naksa, from the villages of Yalu, Beit Nuba and ‘Amwas, who were not recognized as refugees by UNRWA.

These form part of the 168 families resident in the camp, but do not figure in UNRWA records. This has driven many officials in the camp to question UNRWA statistics, particularly those relating to the demography of the camp. Many are refused recognition as refugees by the Agency, because they happen not to meet one of its criteria. Many have moreover become increasingly reluctant to register their new- born in the Agency’s records following its reduction of its services in 1982, which meant that from 5000 cases, only 250 were covered in very arduous times. Experts maintain that at least 10 to 15 per cent must be added to any Agency estimate of the size of the refugee population, amidst a 2-3 percent annual demographic growth rate. The gulf between the official figures and reality became evident after the dramatic rise in the number of registered births following the eruption of the Al-Aqsa uprising and the distribution of some emergency aid by UNRWA. The people of Qalandia camp spent decades before being provided with fundamental services. Electricity and water were only supplied in 1971, after tremendous efforts by the local camp committees, which collected the necessary costs from the residents themselves.

The population’s economic situation improved after the 1967 Naksa. A variety of occupations were available to them thanks to the camp’s location between Ramallah and Jerusalem. From agriculture, they moved to paid employment in numerous fields. The more senior residents relate that when they settled in Qalandia they had to rent land plots from neighbouring villagers to survive. This gradually changed with the spread of education, which the refugees saw as a way out of their arduous economic situation. Now the camp benefits from a high percentage of university graduates.

The camp is situated close to Qalandia Airport, which had been constructed during British Mandatory rule and administered by Jordanians. Many residents worked in shifts at the airport for 15 cents a day. When the Zionists usurped the airport, it became a source of terror for the population, with the constant movement of military aircrafts and the continuous presence of occupation soldiers.

There are even strong indications that the airport is currently being used to manufacture Apache helicopters. A mere two kilometers away lies the Qalandia checkpoint, which was constructed following the al-Aqsa Intifada to separate Ramallah from Jerusalem. A few kilometers away, opposite an area called “Al-Kasarat”, is another military checkpoint (al-Liwaa’) situated at the foot of a mountain overlooking the camp. Next to this military point lies a chain of settlements that reaches up to “At-Taweel” Mountain surrounded with barbed wire and lined with death traps all along. The residents are thus besieged from every direction and chased by the settlers and soldiers’ bullets that target children in particular.

Everyone in the camp vividly recalls what happened a few months ago when the UNRWA run surgery was showered with 800 mm missiles. If it hadn’t been for the grace of God the tens of residents cramped up inside would have all been massacred. The toll of martyrs from the camp has reached 23; 8 of whom met their deaths during the first Uprising and 15 in the recent one. The list includes three cases of martyrs from the same family, Yasin and Ahmad Hamad, martyred in 1994 and 1995, Yassir al-Kibsa, an 11 year old and his 15 year old brother Samir who were killed in 2001 and 2002 only 40 days apart and Isma’il Shhade and his brother Yasin in 1998 and 2002.

The number of those wounded has reached 825 in the period between the beginning of the current uprising and the end of the year 2002, 18 of whom have been permanently disabled in various parts of their bodies. 42 have been arrested and imprisoned since the beginning of this uprising and the number is escalating by the day. Many of their sentences are very long, such as Muhammad as-Salhi, sentenced to 27 years imprisonment. Three of the detainees are girls arrested in 2002 during house aids .

In addition, the camp suffers from the same problems as all other Palestinian refugee camps. Garbage is scattered across the camp’s neglected streets, drains remain unattended and exposed, acting as a principal source of pollution. The problem is accentuated by the constant closures that isolate the camp from surrounding areas and transform it into a large overcrowded prison. Overcrowding is in fact the main problem the residents confront.

They exhausted every possible vacant inch in the camp and have raised their buildings as high as they could go. The inhabitants recall the situation 20 years ago when every dwelling had an adjoined small plot of land where vegetables were grown. Today, no green spaces are to be found in the suffocated camp, with every scrap of land used to accommodate the rising population. Since the eighties, the residents have even struggled to find room to bury their dead. To solve the problem, the refugees have had to scrape up enough money to purchase 30 dunums of surrounding land to house their dead. The main civil society institutions active in the camp are: the Qalandia Youth Centre (founded in 1954), Qalandia Charity Association (1992), the Popular Committee (1995), The Child Club (2002) and the Local Committee for the Rehabilitation of the Disabled (1992). Qalandia is also home to the General Union of Palestinian Youth founded in 1992 and the Popular Committee, which inspects the running of projects inside the camp and works to improve its infrastructure.

In addition there is the Qalandia Women’s Co-operative, one of the first societies to have been established since the Naksa, which runs various training courses for women as well providing mothers with a children’s nursery. All these institutions are highly critical of Palestinian Authority institutions which, according the residents have done very little, if anything to help the camp, locating a mere 138 Shekels to martyrs families. What is truly uplifting is that all the residents identify themselves with the villages thence they had been displaced in 1948 and insist on organizing themselves along those lines.

This is indeed a wonderful cause of optimism and hope, since no matter how long they remain displaced, these will always see themselves as refugees and will never forget their home villages and towns.

Source: Ahmad Abu al-Haija- PRC


This is a journey with a beginning, but no end in sight yet and one that may prove to be amongst history’s longest episodes… This is the story of the Palestinians displaced from their homes since 1948, to the homeland’s refugee camps or those of the diaspora.

Those inside Palestine remain victims of daily campaigns of killing and repression. Such is the fate of the Palestinians of Al-Am’ari Camp in Ramallah city. From the district of al-Lid, ar-Ramla, and Java, as this geographical strip is referred to in Palestine, come the camp’s refugees.

Hajj Abu Muhammad speaks of his exile in 1948:” Everyone fled to areas close to their hometowns and villages… Northerners made for Jenin, Tulkarem, Nablus, or Lebanon, while we of the midlands -al-Lidd and neighbouring towns- ended up in Ramallah, the nearest refuge point.” He continues: “We arrived at the city in 1948…The Red Cross was in charge of the camps then, since UNRWA had only been founded after 1950…The camp was not in its present state at the time, the Red Cross handed each head of household tents that varied in size in accordance with the size of his family… large tents for large families and smaller ones for smaller families…We stayed in tents for six consecutive years, until 1954… Our condition was no better after the tents were pulled down… all we were given was a number of wooden sheets and some banana tree branches from Jericho… These formed the foundation stone of our future homes, which we built using mud… Later on, a single contribution was made by the agency that came in the shape of a few more pieces of wood.

In an area of 93 acres sit those tiny cubes that continue to grow vertically, since no extension has been made to the original plot of land, in spite of the enormous rise in the camp’s population, which has recently been estimated at seven thousand. One cannot help wondering as to what kind of future awaits the camp’s young generations, or those living in similar conditions in other refugee camps across the homeland. The camp administrator, Mr. Ghalib al-Biss says: “We are on our way to a veritable demographic catastrophe… Before, the problem was resolved through erecting new floors on top of existing buildings… With every adult son the family home would rise higher and higher, so that we only have three and four storey- buildings in the camp… The fact that a number of young men left the camp and settled inside Ramallah city helped alleviate the crisis… Now, this has become well nigh impossible with the unbearable rises in land prices and flat rental rates… No young man can afford such living costs… In the seventies the average cost of an acre of land in Ramallah suburbs was 2000 Jordanian dinars approximately, while apartments were let at a monthly rental cost of five dinars. Today, the acre of land is sold at thousands of dinars and the average monthly rental rate is 200 dinars approx. Accordingly, the people of the camp who number 7000 persons have been condemned to remain in the camp forever… Only 300 families have succeeded to leave the camp, since its founding, and settle in Ramallah suburbs…

In an office containing nothing but a single computer and a few worn out pieces of furniture, the camp administrator Mr Ghalib al-Biss sits with his staff, amidst increasing reductions in the Agency’s general budget in recent years. These have sharply affected the services offered by the Agency in primary education, health care and social assistance.

Only two schools are to be found in the camp, one for girls, the other a boys’ school. Children are taught up to year 9, after which they spread across Ramallah’s secondary schools. The 2,500 pupils taught in the two schools, are distributed across tiny classrooms, at an average of 40-50 per classroom, deprived of the most fundamental necessities in school equipment. Initially, the Agency used to provide pupils with a gratuitous school kit. Now, the family has to pay a given sum of money –albeit a modest one- for every one of its children at school, as well as providing them with all their school kit, without any outside assistance whatsoever. Even extensions to the actual school building are made using donations from the families, who have had to fund the construction of 6 new classrooms to accommodate the ever- growing young population of the camp.

The camp fares no better in health care. A single surgery caters for the entire population’s health needs. At first, one general practitioner used to work at the surgery. Following continuous complaints from the camp’s residents, a different specialist was made to visit the surgery in accordance with a set schedule every week. The gynecologist holds surgery on Wednesday, the osteologist the following week and so on… Just as in education, budget reductions have resulted in fees being introduced in exchange for services. Before, patients used to be transferred to hospital for treatment free of charge, in accordance with an agreement between the Agency and al-Matla’ Hospital in Jerusalem that meant that the camp family doctor was able to transfer his patients directly to hospital for treatment.

Today, the destitute patient has to pay 140 Shekel ($35) to be transferred to hospital and complete the intensely complicated bureaucratic transfer procedures, as well as covering a quarter of the entire treatment cost. Given that most patients lack a stable source of income, this development has proven to be an unbearable new burden for the impoverished refugees. The condition of Hajj Abu Zirr serves as a clear example of the crushing weight the introduction of hospital fees has meant for the camp’s refugees.

The camp administrator relates that Hajj Abu Zirr has for six years been struggling to collect the sum of $10,000 to have a lung transplant. The camp residents have covered a part of the sum through their donations. The fate of Hajj Abu Zirr is one of many inside the camp, who might meet their deaths before collecting the cost of their medicines and surgeries. The Palestinian Authority flees its responsibilities towards these refugees under the pretext that they fall under the Agency’s jurisdiction and are thus not covered by the health ministry. This has led many to ask: “Are we not Palestinians like the rest of you?”

Al Am’ari Camp, like all other sectors of Palestinian society, suffers from unemployment proliferation within its ranks. With the exception of a small group of civil servants, the vast majority of the work force struggles under the grip of unemployment. These range from workers who daily poured unto 1948 occupied Palestine before being barred from entry there with the eruption of al-Aqsa Uprising, craftsmen and labourers who worked inside Ramallah’s workshops and factories that were made redundant due to closures and the stifling economic crisis, to day labourers who lost their only source of income due to curfews and road closures.

The children of the camp use narrow streets as their only playground after being deprived of their most elementary rights. No gardens, play centres, or clubs are to be found in the tiny, impoverished camps. Abu Wa’il, a parent, says: “our children know no joy except on the two days of Eid when they enjoy a few rides at the fun fare”. Ramallah is one of the few cities that boast of such an attraction. Since no such luxury is to be found in most Palestinian cities, streets and narrow alleys are the children’s only refuge. The youth of the camp fare no better.

The camp contains a single modest youth club and a centre for the welfare of disabled youth that caters for 150 young men and women. The recent years have also witnessed the emergence of promising initiatives pioneered by a group of residents, who founded a number of community clubs each representing the families, cities and villages of origin, such as al-Lidd Association whose members had lived in al-Lidd before being driven out, the ‘Annaba society, an-Na’ma people Association, which is currently under development. All these different associations are subsumed under the umbrella of al-Am’ari Charity Association.

The families maintain that these clubs and associations have relieved many of the residents’ social problems, intervened in a number of local disputes and served to strengthen the social bond between refugee children, ensuring that they remain attached to their home towns and committed to their right to return.

West Bank and Gaza camps have incurred the largest losses in the blessed uprising. Official statistics indicate that as much as half of those martyred or wounded during the recent Intifada come from refugee camps. The total number of martyrs from al-Am’ari camp has, since April 2000, reached 14, while the wounded are estimated at a 100.

No figure has yet been given for those currently detained in Zionist jails, but their number is mounting daily. Reflecting over al-Am’ari camp martyrs, one cannot help recalling the 4th of April 2002, when Apache helicopters stationed at the neighbouring Psegot colony targeted with a number of missiles a car containing Sheikh Hussein Kwaik, killing his wife Bushra, aged 37, and his children ‘Azeeza (15), Baraa’ (14) and Muhammad (8), when Sheikh Abu Kwaik was not even inside the car at the time. An entire family is exterminated.

The justification: a technical error. Sheikh Kwaik whom the Zionists purported to have targeted on the ground that he acted as the head of Hamas military wing, is currently detained in an-Naqab Prison. After a thorough investigation, Zionist intelligence services were unable to establish a single charge against him. This serves to lay bare the fake accusations fabricated against Palestinian activists to facilitate their executions.

In another assassination operation against a Palestinian activist, two children from al-Am’ari camp were blown to pieces as they passed near the car targeted by Zionist missiles. The murdered children were ‘Arafat Ibrahim al-Misri (16 years old) and his five year old sister Shaymaa’.

The Psegot colony, constructed atop at-Tawil Mountain overlooking al-Am’ari Camp represents a nightmare to the camp’s residents. In virtue of its geographic location, the camp is continuously targeted by Zionist soldiers’ gunfire and missiles for no reason whatsoever, particularly during Zionist incursions into Palestinian cities, which have so far devastated over a 100 homes. Residents live in a continuous state of fear.

One of the many missiles randomly fired from the colony at the camp has once landed on the roof of Mr. ‘Abd al-Fuleel, but did not explode, saving the residents of the tightly packed building from certain death, in one of the most densely populated areas in the world.

“We will no doubt return to our villages, if not we, then our children”, says Mr. Ghalib al-Biss amidst a number of camp dignitaries who insist that their cause would never die, notwithstanding the manipulation of politicians. “The people is alive and will impose its agenda on everyone until it is granted its full rights” maintained. Mr. Ghalib. His words reminded me of a conversation I had with a Zionist intelligence officer at the Julma Prison, regarding final settlement negotiations. The officer said: “I took part in the 1982 war in Lebanon.

Once I stopped a 17 year old man and asked: “Where did you come from?” He answered, “I am From ‘Akka.” The officer continued: “In the young man’s eyes I saw that he understood nothing except that he came from ‘Akka, although he was 17, born in Lebanon, and had never seen ‘Akka.

I am certain that even if he were to be given a million dollars, in exchange for forgetting ‘Akka, he would never forget… There could never be any real peace between us and you…”

Source: Ahmad Sa’id- Ramallah
3510019021_1ed200a0faEast of Nablus, for over half a century, the camp has become painfully rooted into Palestinian memory. During this time, Palestinian refugees have suffered, slowly making the painful transition from life in tents to the age of revolution. Yet they have refused to allow their story to become merely a humanitarian tragedy begging for the Agency’s compassion and its food aid card; they continue to cry out reproaching humanity’s conscience in a thunderous voice: “We are people who, even if humiliated by exile, will not be satiated except by their country’s bread”.