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Ordeal ends for trapped Briton

The Times – 16 March 2002

An elderly British woman held for three days by Israeli soldiers who occupied her apartment building in Ramallah told yesterday of the gunbattles raging from flats on the floors above.

Patricia Rantisi, 69, was held prisoner in her home in the West Bank city’s Tireh district with 22 other residents after soldiers took over their building on Tuesday night. The group included 10 children, one only 18 months old.

The troops left early yesterday morning in the Army’s general withdrawal from the city. Mrs Rantisi said there had been constant gunfights and tanks patrolling the streets.

Soldiers had conducted a fierce gunbattle from the top floors of the five-storey building through the night before they left, at about 3 am. The building is one of the highest in the area.

“We were told by the soldiers at 10 pm on Thursday night that they had an operation to finish and that we were not to go near the doors or windows,” she said. “Then the gunfire started and went on for hours.” She added: “They had removed the windows of some flats so that they could use machineguns. Today we found thousands of bullet cases littered throughout the building and on the roof.”

She heard the soldiers leaving, but only realised her ordeal was over at 6.30 am when the Palestinian police arrived.

Mrs Rantisi said that when soldiers broke into her apartment on Tuesday night, a gun was pointed at her head. During the three days of captivity, she and the 22 others could not leave the room in which they were held. “Whenever soldiers were with us they always had their guns pointed at us, as if we were a danger to them,” she said.

Mrs Rantisi, has lived in Ramallah since 1965, running an orphanage until her retirement in 1996. She planned to visit Britain later this month for a family wedding, but Israel has refused to let her travel on her British passport and insists that she uses her Palestinian papers instead.

She said a photograph of her Palestinian Christian husband, the Rev Audeh Rantisi, who died last year, had been torn up and thrown in the toilet.

An Israeli Army spokesman said the matter would be investigated.

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