On Friday October 19th, members of the Palestinian cycling club and villagers of the West Bank town of Al Walaja joined international and Israeli activists along with the village of Bil’in for the weekly demonstration against the Segregation Wall. Al Walaja village has its own demonstration against the Segregation Wall, which will surround their village, and their presence in solidarity and camaraderie with the villagers of Bil’in was greatly welcomed.
The village of Bil’in was recently the site of a court victory for the joint non-violent struggle against the Segregation Wall. The Israeli High Court decided land stolen by the wall for the Matityahu settlement was for expansion and not security reasons. Half of the land stolen was returned, but half of the settlement was to remain on village land, as well as the wall itself. By order of the court, villagers were supposed to be able to go through a gate to reach their land between the hours of 6 am and 8 pm.
The demonstrations have continued, and villagers are still unable to reach their land because of a heavy military presence at the gate, which routinely decides the area is a closed military zone. This day was not an exception. Around 100 activists gathered from all walks of life, marching towards the wall and chanting. The military closed the area and let off a barrage of tear gas on to the crowd below. Attempts to negotiate with the soldiers were useless, activists asked for soldiers to stop shooting to let the bicycles leave, and the soldiers nodded and then gassed them when they tried. People fell back, farther away from the soldiers but the tear gas continued to rain down.
Fires broke out due to the heat of the tear gas canisters when they hit the ground. When activists attempted to put out the fires they were shot at by the soldiers with rubber coated steel bullets. Any attempt to negotiate with the soldiers for a peaceful demonstration was met with volleys of tear gas and rubber bullets. The demonstration soon returned to the village because of fierce military repression.