British woman tells of Bethlehem shootings

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The Independent Online

A Jewish woman from Manchester spoke last night of her terror after fleeing Israeli soldiers firing live ammunition into a crowd of peace protesters.

A Jewish woman from Manchester spoke last night of her terror after fleeing Israeli soldiers firing live ammunition into a crowd of peace protesters.

Jo Bird, 31, a manager with the Co-operative Bank, watched as three of her friends were shot during the peace demonstration in Bethlehem on Easter Monday.

Her friend Kate Edwards, an Australian living in Manchester, is still in hospital in the West Bank after being hit in the stomach. She underwent surgery to remove four bullet fragments, which ruptured her stomach and caused severe internal injuries. Ms Bird was holed up in a hotel in Bethlehem for three days until the British consulate stepped in to evacuate her and six fellow peace activists, including the comedian Jeremy Hardy. She finally flew home on Thursday evening.

Ms Bird, whose Jewish parents support her activities, told The Independent on Sunday: "We were peacefully marching in Bethlehem and then, without warning, two Israeli soldiers began firing live ammunition out of an armoured personnel carrier.

"Some of the shots were aimed at the floor, some at the walls but others were aimed at people. I was about five metres from the soldiers when they started firing at us.

"I was terrified. It was completely outrageous. My main concern was for my friends who were injured. I was close by when they were hit.

"I feared for my life, for sure. The soldiers carried on firing at us for 10 minutes."

The demonstrators, under the umbrella of the International Solidarity Movement, then began, Ms Bird said, an orderly retreat.

She added."I am angry that our lives and our human rights were treated with such disrespect by the Israeli Defence Force. It opened my eyes to the brutality of the Israeli occupation."

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