It is not too usual to see shootings in Ramallah nowadays. Specially since the compendium of the Palestinian Authority, where Arafat used to live, was destroyed, there is virtually no Israeli military presence in the city. Says A. that it is because it is no longer necessary. Now at last the Palestinian police can patrol the streets of Ramallah. They could not do that before because, since they are regarded simply as armed Palestinians by the Israeli soldiers, and therefore dangerous terrorists on top of being terrorists, they would shoot at them systematically, and with a total justification, in the eyes of Israeli judges, which are the only judges that exist in Israel and Palestine…

The Israeli Army is no longer in Ramallah, and now the uniformed men are, at least in theory, Palestinian Police.

And, although it is not frequent, some colleagues and I did see a shooting in Ramallah today.

I was on this first floor flat, not far away from the window, when we noticed a sudden movement of bodies outside, on the street, like people running and trying to do so in silence. Then the shots. “Tat – tat – tat – tat.” Dry and quick, a lot less noisy than the simplest firecracker. “Tat – tat – tat – tat.” And again, this time nearer to the building where we were. “Tat – tat – tat – tat.”

By then all the internationals were stuck against the window glass, trying to figure out what was going on, trying to see, but a local voice near me shouted: “Away from the window!!”.

It was important to keep as far away as possible from the range of the bullets. Even though they were not aimed at our building, or indeed our window, at all.

Those living in Palestine have already learned to not feel any curiosity but we internationals find it difficult to overcome ours. I guess we had imagined some thing like what we see in films and we wanted to see it with our own eyes.

But bullets have no glamour whatsoever. They don’t even sound like bullets. And yet they can actually kill, or cause pain and/or a disability, for the rest of your life.

So you must stay away from the window, however curious you feel. Your physical integrity is far more important.

The next time I looked out there were still men in uniform around, looking alert, but the shootings had ceased.

For the rest of the day, the shooting is not the most important theme of conversation, but R., who has been arrested, and people are eager to hear the latest news about him.

From the information that is shared between people who seem to know him well, it seems that he was arrested while walking some school girls to school in Hebron, while he was waiting for his appointment to renew his visa, and would have been deported straight away if he had not challenged this. As a result of his challenge, he is being held in a prison until he “changes his mind” and accepts his deportation.

Apparently one of the local papers has published a very misleading article implying that he assisted terrorists a few years ago, in his previous visit to Palestine. Some of his friends are planning to write to the newspaper to contest this article. From their draft letter, I learn that the last action of R. in that first visit was to chain himself to a house that was due for demolition.

The Israeli forces demolish houses of terrorists in order to punish the whole family. There is no court case against the family, so there is no need to prove whether they are guilty of something other than being the family of someone who has been named “a terrorist”. This is collective punishment and it is condemned by the UN, and it goes against the Geneva Conventions. But there is no international force in Israel, so international law is ignored completely.

R. used his body to try to prevent a crime of war from happening and the paper described this as “he was staying in a terrorist’s house”.

The response of the Israeli forces at the time was to deport him – for trying to prevent collective punishment, which is a war crime.

Any foreigner who has been arrested in Palestine, and/or has been deported, is banned from both countries for life.

But R. changed his name legally and came back in order to continue to work for human rights in Palestine. As every other foreigner, he was given a time-limited visa. Before it run out, he went to the appropriate authorities to have it renewed. those authorities, gave him an appointment for a date which was “after” that expiry date. This, he was told, is standard practice, and the mere fact that he was given this appointment meant that his visa was extended until that date.

But now the Israeli authorities in Hebron say that he was in the country illegally and therefore they have to deport him. From a local jail he has been sent to another one, in the far end of the country, to the south, in the desert, and he will be deported from there. All the way, his friends say, he is in isolation. “Incommunicado.”

From Ramallah I go to Bi’lin, which is so close to it there are no permanent military checkpoints on the road that links them. There are no permanent ones. But there is also what is called “flying checkpoints”. Three soldiers block the road with their jeep, and a checkpoint is built.

Years ago I learned in the roads of Spain that if a vehicle flashed its big lights, it meant that it had just passed a police control, so it was warning you.

They may have a similar system here. Suddenly the taxi where I am travelling takes on a local road that is also a rocky path. I look out the window and I see that there are cars following this one, and cars ahead too, avoiding the road.

A Palestinian boy travelling in this taxi with us explains the “trick” with a smile in his face and of course offers us his house to stay, but at least for tonight we have to refuse.

They are building a wall around Bi’Lin, the same wall that separates, in theory, “Israeli territory” from “Palestinian territory”, but in reality it separates “Palestinian people” from “other Palestinian people”, and all from their working and education places, and their lands, until they loose their jobs and their lands and virtually all contact with their relatives who live a mere few kilometres away.

Other white foreigners and I arrive in Bi’Lin in order to stay and spend the nights in case the Israeli Army makes violent incursions in order to take people away, specially boys. And there is urgency because a few days ago, when there was no internationals staying, there was one of those violent incursions.