by the ISM media team, January 19th
Mohammed Khatib being arrested
Brutality towards children was the theme of today’s weekly demonstration in Bil’in. In light of this theme many children walked hand in hand with other demonstrators as they chanted anti-apartheid sentiments while proceeding toward the Apartheid Wall.
Around 70 Palestinian, Israeli, and International activists marched to the gate in the wall where they started chanting and asking to be allowed through. Many activists began pulling the razor wire from the gate, symbolizing Bil’in’s continuing resistance to the wall that has annexed their land. The IOF soldiers quickly fired tear gas at the non-violent activists dispersing most of the crowd.
They continued their hostile assault on those retreating with round after round of tear gas and sound bombs, showing greater than usual animosity towards a peaceful and relatively small crowd. The soldiers fired into the crowd, frequently with particular intent towards the children present at the demonstration.
Several activists walked through the gate when soldiers opened it and they were quickly rebuffed by the IOF soldiers. One Israeli activist was repeatedly thrown against a chain-link fence by the soldiers and he fell to the ground limp. A group of several soldiers held his body down while others began to violently beat the activist with their batons while kicking him in the stomach.
A second Israeli activist suffered the same fate. He was thrown to the ground, his head held, while a gang of soldiers beat his struggling body. Both Israeli men, a third Israeli, and member of the Popular Committee in Bil’in Mohammed Khatib, were arrested during the demonstration, but later released.
As the demonstrators began to disperse up the road they came across a second group of soldiers standing on higher ground firing sound bombs and tear gas, as well as rubber bullets, into the olive groves were a group of children had congregated. The soldiers fired several canisters of tear gas into the road halting the traffic of activists and Palestinians wishing to move freely back to their homes and to the center of the village. Other canisters of tear gas were rifled directly into neighboring houses where Palestinian families, completely uninvolved with today’s demonstration, were made to suffer unnecessarily at the hands of aggressive and trigger-happy soldiers.
Four children were shot with rubber bullets and another child, Saji, was hit in the head with a baton and hospitalised. Many others suffered severe tear gas inhalation.
Today was a bitter reminder of the hostile and forceful occupying grip the IOF continues to exercise on the village of Bi’lin.