JERUSALEM – 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 City. "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 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.
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, 24-year-old 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.
Arraf said Shapiro told her that two of the wounded Palestinians in the compound needed oxygen, including one who had suffered a mild heart attack.
At one point, Shapiro had 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.
His family in the Brooklyn borough of New York spent the night worrying for his safety, said Noah Shapiro. When Adam was finally able to call, his brother said, his voice was "a little shaky. I'm sure it was traumatic."
Adam developed an interest in Arab studies during college, and spent time as a student in Yemen, his brother said. He later moved to the West Bank and is engaged to marry Arraf in May.