Just writing to tell you about one of the things that has made me feel the worst here so far.

I have been staying almost every night for the past 6-7 weeks with the Abu Ayesh family in the Balata refugee camp (more info about Balata here: www.un.org/unrwa/refugees/westbank/balata.html).  Their son Amer Ayesh performed an operation in 1948 near Quaqila 5 months ago in which 3 soldiers were killed.  There are also 2 other families that live in this house.

Several days ago some neighbors had told the Ayesh family that they had seen soldiers looking into the men's room window where me and the two sons were sleeping at about 3 in the morning.  This concerned us and we were ready for soldiers coming the next night, but nothing happened.  The 2nd night all was quiet as well.  It all went bad yesterday night.

At about 2:00 am, Jihad (one of the sons, about 15 years old) woke me up saying "Steve Jeesh" over and over while tugging my leg.  I was walking to to door from the men's room to the main living room and Jihad and his mother went to the door before I could say anything and had already opened it.  We immediately had guns pointed at us, and the soldiers wanted all the men immediately.  I had my passport and phone in my bag in the men's room and when the soldiers asked me for ID I told them that it was in the room, they said "you have other ID?" and told me I could not go back into the room.  I gave them my drivers license.  The men were ordered outside, myself included none of us were permitted to even get anything from the house even our shoes.

We were sat outside in an alley, while the women were permitted to gather some things. The families were placed outside in the alley, we (me and Jen the other ISM) started to find ways to delay the soldiers long enough to get other ISM people to the house.  The soldiers asked why we were here and Jen and myself replied with "What are you doing? Why are you here?  We were with the family."  The soldiers replied "You know why we are here" and said nothing else.

The soldiers started to move the families and neighbors to a nearby house and we decided that I would stay with the family and Jen would go talk with the soldiers back in the house using the excuse that she forgot something important.  She delayed the soldiers for about 30-40 minutes until they forced her out.  She then joined me with the family as they requested to me earlier that I stay with them.  During this time other ISMers were having problems with soldiers getting to the house, at one point one of the soldiers asked them if they were friends with "the guy from Ohio."  They replied that they did not know me and then lied to the soldiers that there were other internationals in homes right next to the Ayesh house.

Usually if we buy enough time, at least until the sunrise the soldiers will leave because then they get rocks thrown at them during confrontations.  All in all we delayed them until 4:45 am when they blew up the house.  I still feel rather horrible at what has happened and I feel that I somehow failed or let down the family.