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News Release

For Immediate Release
Vancouver, March 8, 2003

Israeli Occupation Forces attack traditional economy of Nablus

ISM-Vancouver activists witness IOF’s attempt to demolish centuries-old soap factory in the old city of Nablus

NABLUS – During an invasion of the old city of Nablus in the evening of March 6, 2003, an Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) demolition of a centuries-old soap factory at Arayoun Square was narrowly averted. The explosives were being prepared and the area had been cleared for the blast when last ditch negotiations by the Red Crescent along with the presence ISM international volunteers thwarted the IOF operation, reports ISM-Vancouver’s Carel.

The manufacture of soap from olive oil is one of the traditional industries of Nablus and one of its largest employers until the IOF began systematically destroying soap factories in the city. Nablus soap has been world renowned since the 16th century when it was the soap of choice for Queen Elizabeth I. The largest soap factory in Nablus was obliterated during the April 2002 invasion by a bomb dropped from an F16.

“It seems hard to imagine that Palestinian soap is a threat to Israel’s security,” said ISM-Vancouver volunteer Gordon. “This is another example of Israel’s depopulation strategy: destroy the Palestinian economy so that Palestinians are forced to emigrate in order to feed their families.”

The IOF demolition team arrived at approximately 5pm in Jeep #610939 and Explosives Van #667333. “A platoon of 25 soldiers had already cleared a houses adjacent to the factory. They forced the family with two infants and a grandfather with a heart condition to stand outside in the cold,” reports Carel. “They had also arrested ten men from the neighbourhood,”

After the arrival of the demolition team, the infantry platoon secured the perimeter of Arayoun square. “Then we were startled by a very large explosion as the soldiers blew open the doors of the factory,” said Gordon. “Several IOF soldiers went inside, and we thought they just wanted to search the factory.” According to Gordon, a soldier opened the van and removed several red metal ordinance cases.

A doctor from the Palestinian Red Crescent, who had been treating a man the soldiers had beaten up, approached the ISM activists. “She told us the soldiers were planning to blow up the soap factory and that she was negotiating with them,” said Carel. “They told her they believed it was for making bombs.”

The soldiers demanded that the two Palestinian ambulances and all medical personnel leave the square because of the impending demolition. The doctor asked the ISM activists to remain in the square to monitor the situation and she went to continue negotiating with the soldiers over the fate of the soap factory.

The ISM activists put out an urgent call for more international volunteers to come and help protect the factory. “As more volunteers began arriving, we decided to link arms and sit next to the factory to try and prevent the soldiers from demolishing it,” Carel said.

The doctor reported that the soldiers had agreed to talk to the owner about the factory, and if he proved to them it really was a soap factory, they would not blow it up. The owner took the soldiers on a tour of the factory, cutting open the soap and showing them the olive oil to prove there were no bombs inside. Meanwhile, ISM activists occupied the street in front of the factory.

The soldiers decided not to blow up the factory and quickly withdrew from the scene. The Palestinian people in the square erupted into a spontaneous street party.

“Although this was a wonderful victory, it may be short-lived because the IOF is clearly targeting this factory and the economic infrastructure,” explained Gordon. “Given the sophistication of Israeli intelligence, it’s just not credible they really thought it was a bomb factory.”

“It is vital that people and governments in North America and Europe demand that Israel stop this economic terrorism committed under guise of security,” Carel concluded.

Gordon and Carel are available for interview by email. Their email is gordon@ism-vancouver.org. Digital photos are available on request.

-30-

For more information or to arrange an interview, please contact Reem, Coordinator of ISM-Vancouver by email at
info@ism-vancouver.org
.


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