UPDATE, Saturday 7th – A few hours after the demonstration yesterday Israeli soldiers eventually managed to invade the village shooting rubber bullets and firing sound bombs at Palestinian children who threw stones at them to defend their village. Three houses were damaged. Reuters cameraman Emad Bornat (who is also a resident of the village), who was the only person present filming this, was arrested and beaten. He was taken to hospital in Jerusalem and then taken back to the police station where he was questioned until 1am. He is currently being held at Ofer detention center near Ramallah. Emad was originally charged with assaulting a border policeman and throwing stones but the assault accusation was later dropped. Emad has been documenting the non-violent resistance to the Wall in Bil’in and his video footage has often refuted the false allegations of the Israeli military and helped to get those detained or arrested released. He has made a film called “One Year of Peaceful Resistance to the Wall”, made up of the hundred of hours of footage of the demonstrations he has taken.
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As on every Friday for the last 20 months, the villagers of Bil’in, supported by international and Israeli activists, marched from the village mosque after prayers to the apartheid wall, which has stolen around half of the village’s agricultural land.
Following the pattern of last week’s demo Israeli forces didn’t hinder the marchers on their way to the gate in the Wall. The IOF declared the area a Closed Military Zone and banned the villagers accessing their land on the other side of the Wall. At the gate the villagers chanted resistance slogans, reminding the occupiers that their spirit of defiance and demand for justice won’t be suppressed.
As some villagers attempted to climb onto the gate, soldiers hauled them off onto the other side. Two villagers, Ayad and Iyad Burnat, were detained in this way.
Not deterred by the intense midday heat and their empty stomachs, many villagers decided to continue the protest by marching down the slope along the wall and were immediately attacked by Israeli forces firing multiple rounds of tear gas. Around 20 protesters suffered from the effects of the gas and were forced to disperse into the olive groves where they watched as the IOF turned their attention to children in the olive groves on the opposite side of the road. Snipers took up positions and started firing rubber bullets at children in the groves who responded by throwing stones.
As the IOF prepared to invade, villagers blocked the road with rocks and the village youth once again successfully managed to prevent the world’s fourth largest army from invading, armed only with what they could find on the ground.