April 2 2002
Situation in Bethlehem escalates
02/04/2002 - Preparations are being made in the SOS Children's Village in Bethlehem to provide a safe haven for the children, youths and co-workers because of the escalating situation there. Furthermore the SOS Children's Village will also act as a shelter and place of care for traumatised children.
The National Director for SOS Children's Villages in Jordan, Lina Kopty, has informed us today that communication with the SOS Children's Village in Bethlehem is reduced to a minimum. It was only possible, with great difficulty, to speak to the village director once on the phone. He described the present situation in Bethlehem as follows: helicopters are circling over the town; tanks and heavily armed Israeli troops are increasingly besieging the town. The tanks are now very close to the SOS Children's Village. All the SOS Children's Village families are staying in their houses. At present it is not possible to move around the SOS Children's Village. Everybody has to stay indoors for safety reasons. The electricity supply is constantly being cut off.
Yesterday Lina Kopty told us that the co-workers from the SOS Children's Village were buying food and medical supplies so that the children and youths will have enough to eat should shortages occur. All the girls who were living in the SOS Youth House have been moved to the SOS Children's Village as the SOS Youth Facility is situated directly opposite Yassir Arafat's house.
It is feared that similar operations will be carried out as in Ramallah where mass arrests took place of all men and young boys between the ages of 14 and 45. For this reason efforts are being made to bring all former SOS Children's Village children, especially male youths, back into the SOS Children's Village. The youths who managed to get to the SOS Children's Village yesterday have now been accommodated in either the aunt's house or in the family houses.
The Palestinian Authorities' emergency committee has asked the SOS Children's Village to look after and care for badly traumatised children and youths. Because of the threat of the situation, children from many families are becoming psychologically unstable. Fear and depression are leading to serious physical symptoms. The SOS Children's Village and the social workers from the ministry will together organise that the children be admitted to the SOS Children's Village on an emergency basis and cared for there. This will take place as soon as the telephone lines are working again and emergency calls can be made. The SOS Children's Village co-workers, mothers and youths will take an active part in this aid programme by providing the children with food and the social workers with accommodation.
It has not been possible for SOS Children's Village co-workers to reach the village since Sunday morning and all the schools, universities and public offices are shut.