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Ramallah Briton held at gunpoint

The Times – 15 March 2002

Israeli soldiers were holding a 69-year-old British woman at gunpoint in her home in Ramallah last night.

An attempt yesterday by the British consulate to reach her to check on her condition failed when its armoured vehicle was forced to turn back because the area had been sealed off. Patricia Rantisi has been a prisoner in her apartment building in the Tireh district of the West Bank city since late on Tuesday night.

Troops have forced the building’s 23 occupants, including 10 children, into one room and stationed snipers on the roof. The consulate relocated three British nationals from Ramallah yesterday, moving them to Jerusalem.

It said a further 25 Britons were not being allowed to leave because they hold dual nationality. Anyone with Palestinian citizenship must have a permit to enter Israel, but the authorities are not issuing the necessary papers. A spokesman for the consulate in Jerusalem said she was particularly concerned about Mrs Rantisi’s plight. She is the only Briton with sole nationality she knows of who is being held against her will.

One of Mrs Rantisi’s three daughters, Hilary, who lives in Boston, was talking by phone to her mother at 11.30 pm on Tuesday when soldiers entered the apartment.

Mrs Rantisi, thinking the soldiers wanted only to search her flat, told Hilary she would ring back. When she called minutes later, she said she had to be quick because the soldier next to her had a gun to her head. She was then cut off.

The British consulate gave emissary status to a Swiss nun so that she could see Mrs Rantisi, but she was turned away.

Mrs Rantisi has lived in Ramallah since 1965. Her late husband, the Rev Audeh Rantisi, was a prominent Palestinian Anglican priest and former mayor of the city. The couple ran an orphanage for boys in Ramallah until they retired in 1996.

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