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Friday, 26 April, 2002, 15:17 GMT 16:17 UK
Diary of Ramallah life
Children walk past burnt out cars in the cenre of Ramallah
Ramallah is littered with debris of the fighting

Retired architect Tom Kay moved to Ramallah four months ago from London.

He and his wife Adah are both Jewish - Tom was born in Palestine and had lived in Ramallah as a baby.

He is studying Arabic at Birzeit University. His wife is studying in London but visits him frequently.

Below are some new extracts from Tom's diary on their life in Ramallah.


Thursday 25 April

A few explosions and shots early in the evening, but generally a quiet day.

At midnight a heavy machine gun started up at the bottom of the gorge below us.

I live two minutes walk from the centre of Ramallah and have panoramic views over about a quarter of the town.

Retired British architect Tom Kay in Ramallah
Tom has watched the battles in Ramallah from his home
For about 25 minutes the guns mounted on a tank fired into the street in front of the building of the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP). No return fire - one light on in the building. The shells exploding inside the building showed up as red glows.

Just below our home, less than 40 metres away, I saw white flashes from a single automatic rifle.

The tank gun again opened fire and I watched the red tracers travel to the position below us.


Monday 22 April

Spent the morning street-cleaning. Brooms, shovels, hoes, tractors and dump trucks. Shopkeepers on the way supplied us with soft drinks.
Ramallah residents pitch in to clear up the streets
Ramallah residents clear up the streets

Everywhere, repair work has started. Men at the bottom of huge holes in the road, rebuilding main sewers. Shop fronts are being hastily, if not beautifully, welded.

Lots of storytelling while we worked.


Sunday 21 April

The Israeli Defence Force (IDF) has left town, except from Yasser Arafat's compound.

My first reaction - elation and relief.

My second - what am I elated about?

My third - what is there to celebrate?

My fourth - now the world is going to forget about the Palestinians again.

Up in Almanara, the centre of Ramallah, all looked normal and busy. Heard shooting, and a dozen boys and teenagers ran past.

There was an armoured personnel carrier (APC) and IDF men handcuffing a man standing in a shop doorway.

I was hit on the leg by a small stone, from a shower coming from behind me. I shouted at the boys in English but they understood.


Friday 19 April

During the curfew lift I was at Almanara.

Stationed at one of the exits, Roukab Street, the IDF have about six APC's , tanks and armoured jeeps with guns trained into the square and the street.

A Palestinian policeman directs traffic in central Ramallah
A Palestinian policeman directs traffic in central Ramallah
On a few occasions my wife or I have talked to them across their barbed wire fence.

No Palestinian would dare. We are seen, at best, as idiosyncratic foreigners, at worst as traitors.

There were few pedestrians on the roundabout. In the past the soldiers lobbed stun or sound grenades and tear gas at will as soon as more than about 20 people collected in front of the wire.

This time I watched a soldier launch his gun-mounted grenade at nobody except the cars.

The gas is particularly painful both in the lungs and eyes. Car windows were being wound up as fast as possible, but as often is the case, the traffic was at a complete standstill.

Thirty metres down Jerusalem Road, the vegetable market was in full swing. The gas blew straight into the market.

The small children and the elderly who were shopping at the market were, to put it mildly, in difficulty.


Wednesday 17 April

In bed by midnight but an explosion very close set off the car alarms in the yard.

Going round the house in the morning, I found the blast had shattered one window and cracked three.

In the afternoon I watched about 15 men raid the DFLP building. It's the fourth time I've witnessed them do it. This time they back the armoured cars to the door and carried away boxes.


Tuesday 15 April

At Qalandya checkpoint things were worse than usual.

At least a thousand people waiting to be searched by two men. The rest of the soldiers were involved with 'crowd control'.

An obviously upset woman behind me called out. She had several children and was taking one to hospital. She asked me if I could help - but the short answer was no.

In the evening we watched and listened the searches in the gorge.

Later, near the Mukata, the Israeli garrison launched a very impressive fire works display to celebrate independence day.


Monday 14 April

Israeli radio announced that the curfew is still in place, except for the press.

Refuse workers clear rubbish off the streets
A rare garbage collection in Ramallah
Myself and two others, wearing as much camera gear as possible (none of us with press cards) strolled slowly to Almanara. Not a single person in sight.

At Almanara a soldier moved towards us from the tank position and shouted. One of my friends got his passport out, the other explained that the press were allowed out of their cages.

The only card I could show was my Royal Institute of British Architects card. Had I shown it successfully, it would have been the first time in over 40 years that it was of any use.

A soldier told us to go down the Jerusalem road and keep walking.

His parting shot was that he had sent 100 journalists down the road that day and at least 40 since the so-called radio announcement. I turned around and took a photo - that really annoyed him.

At 4pm a garbage truck accompanied by International Red Cross vehicles came down the street emptying bins. The first time in two weeks.

My neighbour's phone is still working. While I downloaded emails a tank manoeuvred behind the nearby hostel and fired four rounds. The shells exploded a split second after firing.

I felt sick.

Click here to read previous extracts from Tom's diary

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