Refugees Under Curfew Face Boredom and Daily Search for Food With AM-Israel-Violence Bjt
BUREIJ, Occupied Gaza Strip (AP) _ Palestinians said Wednesday that 12 days of curfew have taught them elaborate schemes for finding food, and they know by the sound of the engine what kind of Israeli army vehicle is passing.
″We’re used to getting up early, but then we find there’s nothing to do,″ said Khalid, 25, who lives in a three-room house in the Bureij refugee camp with 10 family members. ″Time has stopped for us.″
More than 400,000 Palestinians in eight Gaza Strip refugee camps and two areas of the West Bank have been living under curfew for periods up to 12 days. The army lifts the curfew periodically to allow residents to shop.
For the 12,000 refugees confined to cramped cinderblock houses in this Gaza Strip camp, even routine activities often are impossible. The long days indoors are dominated by the need to slip out and find food.
″All we think about is how to get food into the house,″ said Faisa, a 22- year-old mother of three who would not give her last name. She spoke in an orange grove Arabs use to sneak out of the camp unseen by Israeli soldiers.
Faisa said her biggest fear was not reprisals if she was caught breaking curfew, but that she might not be able to get back into camp with the food. She said soldiers have emptied her baskets in the street twice.
Curfew is hardest on children, who normally spend the day playing outdoors in the narrow dirt streets, Faisa said. At her house, seven children and seven adults share four rooms.
″Sometimes I just have to close the door behind them and let them cry,″ she said.
An Israeli lieutenant colonel named Avi who commands the camp told reporters his soldiers had orders to enforce curfews even to the point of seizing food from residents who sneak out. He withheld his surname, in accordance with military regulations.
An AP reporter saw soldiers take a red shopping basket of cabbage, bread and sandwiches from a 22-year-old woman at the camp entrance Tuesday.
On Wednesday, Defense Minister Yitzhak Rabin denied Israel was trying to starve Palestinians into ending the unrest by imposing curfews and barring foreign food aid. He said reports of food shortages were groundless.
″There is no policy to deny food or water to residents who are under curfews in the camps″ and the accusations are ″a crude propaganda weapon against the state of Israel,″ he told Israel radio.
Riots began in the occupied territories Dec. 8, and at least 36 people have been killed by Israeli gunfire.
When an AP reporter entered Bureij with foreign relief workers Wednesday, its muddy, garbage-strewn streets were deserted except for a dozen army jeeps.
The relief workers spent nearly eight hours negotiating with army officials and waiting at roadblocks before being allowed to deliver 250 bags of milk powder, 92 tins of baby formula and 84 hens.
″There is very little food coming in from the outside. There are shortages of all the basic foods, but people are not yet starving,″ said Dr. Mohammed Isa, a physician at the clinic where the food was unloaded.
Khalid said camp residents manage to get out by distracting troops on patrol. He said he and his brothers sometimes ran out of the house, permitting his sisters to slip away while the soldiers chased the men.
″We have learned to distinguish between the different army vehicles,″ he said. ″We know the sound of an armored personnel carrier or the sound of a jeep.″
″Most of the time we do nothing,″ said Khalid, who was sent to prison for a year in 1986 on security charges. ″Life in prison is better than life under curfew.″