Last night at about 1:40am we were called to the streets by local Palestinians of the village of Bil’in where we were staying the night. A force of three jeeps full of Israeli soldiers armed with M-16s were conducting night raids to arrest villagers in Bili’n. we were witness to two of the arrests, one of which was a young boy of 14. The other was a young man of about 18. There was one further arresst that we did not directly witness. Most of the 19 people arrested in the past 2 weeks have been young men below the age of 19.
After we were notified of the soldier’s presence, our group of 5 internationals arrived at the scene and started filming the raid by walking up to the door of the aparment that was being raided. We witnessed one man being taken to the jeeps, and followed the other soldiers to another apartment building. They went in and brought out a Palestinian man, took him upstairs, and used him as a human shield by making him knock on the door for another apartment. From there, we followed them to another apartment where they arrested the Palestinian boy. When they took the boy out to the jeeps, we followed them so that they were constantly being monitored.
Then, the villagers showed up chanting in unison. There were about 50-70 villagers in the group. The soldiers were obviously intimidated. From there, the arrests stopped and a confrontation between the villagers and the soldiers ensued. One of the Palestinian men was negotiating with the commander of the soldier’s unit, and from there things got tense. At one point, the soldiers formed a skirmish line and forced our group back a few feet. Negotiations continued for a while, and then the soldiers started preparing to leave. The villagers started creating roadblocks with large stones from the side of the road, and then the soldiers made their getaway. The entire group of Palestinians and internationals chased them down the street and out of the village.
The village of Bili’n is suffering from the creation of the wall, which will cut off the village from it’s Olive groves. The wall and the building of settlements will claim about 2400 of the 4000 dunums of land that this village cultivates. There have been protests every friday in Bili’n lately to expose the injustice of the Wall and Occupation.
What kind of security can be provided by arresting children in the middle of the night and terrorising the entire community in this manner? This is the insanity of the occupation in Palestine. I wish I had not had to go out and witness this tonight, but I am grateful that at least someone was here so that it did not happen without witnesses. If we had not been here, things could have been much more violent and brutal. As it was, the soldiers knew they were being observed by several internationals and several cameras. It is critical that we pass along this information to people so that we can change our government’s policies of supporting this kind of cruel treatment of the Palestinians.