Click here for pictures of the demonstration.
Around 1:30pm, around 300 demonstrators, including Bil’in residents, Israeli activists and internationals began marching in the direction of the construction site of the Annexation Barrier. The demonstrators were carrying mock tomb stones that read- “R.I.P. Residents of Bil’in, Cause of death: The Wall 2005”.
After about five minutes, the demonstrators approached the last houses in the village where the Israeli army had posted a warrant and a map that declared Bil’in and three other surrounding villages a closed military zone from 6am Friday until 6am Saturday. A large force of soldiers, border police and plainclothes officers were waiting for the demonstrators with a white van that houses the new Israeli army weapon, ‘the Scream’, behind barbed wire.
A number of demonstrators proceeded to lie down in the road under their tombstones while others began to remove the barbed wire. When the Israeli army turned on the Scream the demonstrators remained lying down. The military threw tear gas and sound bombs into the crowd and began arresting people. A Palestinian who was lying on the ground was hit and burned by a sound bomb. Soldiers refused to allow him to receive medical attention despite him bleeding from his leg. He was later arrested.
In addition to rubber coated steel bullets, tear gas and sound bombs, Israeli soldiers used a new weapon- a sponge cap attached to a hard plastic shell that is fired from a 40mm gun attachment and spins at high speed.
The army entered the village and Palestinian youth responded by throwing stones. Fifteen demonstrators, including a 15 year old child who was hospitalized after a gas canister was fired directly at him, were injured in the course of the demonstration from both the new and “traditional” weapons. An Israeli protester and a disabled Palestinian in wheel chair were hit by tear gas canisters and required medical treatment. Israeli army regulations prohibit direct firing of tear gas canisters at people, yet this is a common practice at non-violent demonstrations. The Israeli military spokesperson reported that three `security personnel’ were wounded by stones.
Seven demonstrators were arrested, including three Palestinians and four Israelis. One Israeli and one Palestinian were later released. The other arrested were brought to Giv’at Ze’ev police station and were accused of throwing stones (even though they were arrested before any stones were thrown). A video that was brought by Israeli activists to the police station proves that neither the Israelis nor the Palestinians who were arrested threw stones. However, the police interrogators only agreed to watch the part of the video showing the Israeli arrested. They said that discussion regarding the Palestinian arrested will take place another day. Subsequently, the three Israelis who were still under arrest refused to be released and all five have been taken to prison cells where they will spend the night.
One of the arrested is Abdallah Abu Rahma, a prominent member of the Popular Committee against the Wall and Settlements. Members of the committee have thus far been detained, arrested, beaten and threatened, and their families have been harassed in the middle of the night by Israeli security forces. The entire village has suffered from collective punishment at the hands of the Israeli army for their persistence in non-violent resistance. In a recent Ha’aretz report the army commander in the area confirmed the use of collective punishment against villages resisting the wall.