Archive for Saturday, March 30, 2002

American citizen in Arafat’s compound

March 30, 2002


— After a tense night surrounded by Israeli tanks and troops, an American trapped alongside Yasser Arafat in the Palestinian leader's offices left Saturday with a delegation of humanitarian workers.

Adam Shapiro then made a relieved a telephone call to his family in New York. "He said `I'm out! I'm out! I'm out!'" said Shapiro's brother, Noah.

Shapiro, a 30-year-old volunteer medic, had entered the compound on Friday afternoon in an ambulance to evacuate Arafat guards wounded in exchanges of fire in the Israeli assault. The army's takeover is part of a major military offensive launched in retaliation for attacks on Israeli civilians.

Shapiro, a 30-year-old native of Brooklyn, New York, had spent the night sitting on the floor in a room in Arafat's three-story office building, which has been surrounded by Israeli forces since Friday, said his Palestinian fiancee, Huweida Arraf.

A 30-year-old native of Brooklyn, New York, Shapiro managed to send an urgent text message to his fiancee Saturday morning. "Phone lines have been cut. Need Red Cross." After that his mobile phone battery went dead.

Arraf said a small group of foreigners was able to enter Arafat's compound later Saturday despite initial objections by soldiers. The visitors delivered humanitarian supplies and tended to some of the wounded.

Arraf said Shapiro later walked out of the compound with the visitors. A second volunteer medic, Caoimhe Butterly from Dublin, Ireland, decided to stay because she has medical training, Arraf said.

Shapiro, a member of an international solidarity movement with the Palestinians, has been living in the West Bank town of Ramallah for three years, said Arraf.

During his stay in Arafat's compound, he contacted Arraf several times by phone. Arraf said he was a little scared while inside the headquarters.

Arraf said Shapiro told her that two of the wounded Palestinians in the compound need oxygen, including one who had suffered a mild heart attack. At about 3 a.m. Saturday (midnight GMT), Shapiro called her to tell her about the meal he had shared with Arafat. "I don't think there's a lot of food. He was like 'I just had breakfast with the president,'" Arraf said.

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