Saturday, September 15th, at 12pm, international and Israeli activists joined Palestinian activists and villagers in the village of Qusin to protest the system of control imposed upon them by the Israeli army. The region has seen a rise in demonstrations of this sort recently, with roadblock removal demonstrations happening also in the nearby town of Sarra.
There is a road that connects both of these towns, and others, to Nablus, and to the Nablus-Tulkarem road. This road has been deemed usable only by Israelis, it turns what is normally a five minute journey to Nablus into at least one hour. This constitutes daily harassment for people going to work, going to school, or even just visiting family.
People gathered together in the village of Qusin and marched towards the roadblock that prevents them from accessing this road, in Qusin it takes the form of a yellow gate chained shut. Villagers with international and Israeli support rallied at the gate, singing, chanting, and opened it for general use.
After some celebrations at the newly opened gate this non-violent demonstration decided to return to the village, but soldiers from an army base nearby spotted them and ran down the hill, preventing them from going back peaceably to their homes. Soldiers began to push the people gathered there, threatening them all alike. The press were threatened and assaulted as much as the demonstrators, with one journalist saying the commander told him “stop filming or I will break your camera!”. The soldiers did not want any evidence of what was going to happen next.
Tear gas and rubber-coated metal bullets began to shoot off into the crowd, the demonstrators scattered, unable to reach their home and faced with extreme army violence. People ran down a hill into a field, trying to find an alternative way of reaching their village. The army stood on the road, firing more tear gas and rubber-coated metal bullets at moving targets below. Some of the soldiers chased people into the fields, and were seen beating Palestinians. They were also caught pointing their guns at people at point-blank range and threatening to fire.
One international was shot in the hand at a distance of 10 meters by a rubber-coated steel bullet and required medical attention, with blood shooting from her hand “like a geyser” as one witness reported. Under Israel’s own military law, it is illegal to fire rubber coated steel bullets from a distance closer than 40 meters. The soldiers were therefore in direct violation of their own military law when undertaking these actions today. Another international and five Palestinians were also shot but did not need to go to the hospital. While most people had scattered, many international and Israeli observers were on the road asking the military to calm down and use less violence.
After it was clear the demonstration was over, these people were all arrested. In the end six Israeli activists, five international activists, and two Palestinians were arrested. The Palestinians were handcuffed and blindfolded and no information about their status has been confirmed. Three of the international activists and one Israeli are being charged with the false allegation of assaulting an officer while being arrested. Although these claims are entirely baseless lies, journalists were kept away from the scene of the arrest to prevent demonstrators from having proof of their innocence and it will be a case of one person’s word against the other.
***UPDATE*** As of September 19th, all the demonstrators have been released. Those injured and hospitalized have returned to their homes and are recovering. We are still trying to raise money for the Palestinian demonstrators, 8,000 shekels (around 2,000 dollars) are urgently needed to pay for the bail costs for both men. It is extremely important to support the villagers of Qusin who have only begun to wage nonviolent struggle against an illegal and brutal Israeli occupation.
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