left: One measure of the rush and stress we were in back in September 1996, we initially reported the caption for this image as "Tear gas fails to disperse the protesters." Actually, the smoke was coming from a burning tyre that had been extinguished by the soldiers. Oops. Photo by Yasser Darweesh
The main delay we faced in getting this material up at the time was a commercial strike in Ramallah that meant that photo developing studios were shut for several days. Eventually we managed to track down the owner of one lab in his home, who agreed to process our films for us.
As a result of this and other lessons we learnt during the September clashes, I added an appeal to the original website for "Web reporting resources" - digital cameras, a video camera, new computers, and scanners. Within one year, mostly individuals and some organisations sent us over $15,000 of financial and equipment donations. This revolutionised Birzeit's work on the Web and helped us add much more information during future events. Today, two years after that shot in the arm, Birzeit's website even offers a weekly half-hour radio programme, OutLoud.
Right: Israeli soldiers, crouching in a street littered with stones, open fire with what the media likes to term "rubber bullets". These 'rubber' bullets are 1.5cm diameter steel cylinders encased in 1mm of rubber. 'Plastic' bullets, similarly, are 1cm diameter steel balls encased in 1mm of hard plastic. Naturally, these resulted in many injuries. Photo by Yasser Darweesh
The correct terminology for both would be "rubber-coated metal bullets" (RCMBs) or "plastic-coated metal bullets" (PCMBs). The latter can be recognised from the fatter cylinder at the end of the barrel of the rifle. The above are the thinner RCMBs.
A later entry in this section of the diary looks in more detail at these weapons. At this point in the demonstration, as we will see photographic evidence of in a coming entry, soldiers were firing a mixture of rubber-coated metal bullets and live ammunition.
If you think about this for a moment, this would seem to contradict the point of using riot control equipment such as RCMBs. Not at all. Israeli soldiers regularly use RCMBs and PCMBs in ways not intended by their manufacturers, as lethal killing devices. According to a UN official who I spoke to in Gaza in 1989, RCMBs anf PCMBs are supposed to be fired from a distance of not less than 25 meters and preferably bounced off a wall or the ground. Israeli troops regularly fire these from closer distances and directly at the heads of demonstrators.
Left: At some point during the clashes, Israeli soldiers moved into Palestinian-controlled Area "A". In this photo, they are shooting at Palestinian demonstrators from inside Area A. Photo by Yasser Darweesh.
Birzeit student Yasser Abdul Ghani was the first to fall, at 4:25pm, shot in the heart with live ammunition. Birzeit students confronted the Palestinian Police, asking them how they could stand by and do nothing while the Israelis shot people.
Palestinian Police, after watching Israeli soldiers open fire with live ammunition on the Palestinian demonstrators for about an hour, opened fire themselves when a Palestinian policeman was shot by Israeli gunfire.
One Palestinian Policeman and at least three others died, and hundreds of people were injured during these few hours, as a direct result of the Israeli use of both RCMBs and live ammunition. The grey car on the left, a Palestinian Broadcasting Corporation vehicle, was repeatedly strafed with bullets (photo appears in a later entry).