Today roughly fifteen hundred people, including Palestinian and Israeli activists, international Human Rights Workers and journalists, gathered in the village of Al Khader, in the Bethlehem region, as part of a weekly demonstration against the Apartheid Wall. Once the demonstration was gathered, the Israeli Army gave a five minute period in which to leave or else they would begin shooting.
The demonstration began with a speech and the noon time prayer. Some young boys were without prayer mats and were using banners which read “Free Palestine,””End the Occupation,”and “Feed The Gaza Children” to kneel on.
After praying the procession was lead by a group carrying a banner of the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP), which today celebrated it’s thirty-ninth birthday.
There was singing and clapping and waving of flags all along the road leading up to Route 60, where the Israeli Army had made a road block of barbed wire and about thirty soldiers. For about five minutes the crowds gathered in front and below the soldiers in the road and on the embankment. A group of women with young daughters and toddlers stood at the front of the march.
After a peaceful start, activists were fired upon consistently with sound bombs and tear gas. Nearly everyone turned and stampeded as quickly as possible to get away from the gas, which fell from all directions. Not just once or twice as expected, but enough to cause an immediate and panicked retreat. There were women and children on the floor as people passed out from the gas. When the smoke cleared the Red Crescent were busy handing out alcohol wipes and gauze soaked in ethanol.
In the following minutes people were united in trying to stem tears and nurse bruises where some had been hit by canisters. The Army took this opportunity to once again fire four or five more gas canisters, trying to break up the gathering. This happened twice if not three times more and was deliberately aimed at the paramedics on site who had no choice but to stay with the injured near the ambulances. By the time the roadblock had been cleared there were still rows of people on stretchers waiting to be put in an ambulance. Around 70 people were injured, 13 of them women and children.
Ma’an News reports:
Dr. Mohamed Odeh from the Palestinian Medical Relief and two other ambulance staff were also injured as they tried to evacuate the injured from the scene.
Medical Relief condemned the Israeli soldiers’ attack on their staff, saying that it is not the first time that members of their medical crews have come under Israeli attack, which is “a flagrant violation of international law, that guarantees medical crews neutrality.”