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Israeli forces target Palestinian cameramen at Bil’in demonstration

Israeli forces storm Bil'in and arrest 3 demonstrators

Israeli forces storm Bil'in and arrest 3 demonstrators, photo courtesy of Hamde Abu Rahma

UPDATE: Haitham was released with a condition to not be near the Apartheid Wall. The Israeli solidarity activists were given a condition to not be in the village of Bil’in.

For Immediate Release

25 September 2009: Israeli forces target Palestinian cameramen at Bil’in demonstration.

Around 1pm, Israeli forces arrested 2 Israeli solidarity activists and a Palestinian cameraman, Haitham al-Khatib (33 years old) during a demonstration in the West Bank village of Bil’in.

Witnesses say that Israeli soldiers ran in and arrested the 3 demonstrators. Haitham al-Khatib was filming the demonstration near the Wall when he was taken.

Haitham has been filming the ongoing Israeli arrest campaign in Bil’in. One of his videos was recently used by several news sources, including the Israeli news, YNet (see: http://www.ynet.co.il/english/articles/0,7340,L-3778117,00.html), to showcase the violence and intimidation used by the army against Bil’in residents. Thousands of viewers worldwide have been following the night raids in Bil’in through Haitham’s videos on http://www.youtube.com/user/haithmkatib.

Haitham was previously detained by Israeli forces on 24 July 2009 when he arrived at Ofer prison to wait for the release of another Bil’in resident. He was held for several hours and interrogated.

Coordinator of the Bil’in Popular Committee Against the Wall and Settlements, Abdedallah abu Rahme, stated, “Soldiers coming to arrest Palestinians from Bil’in in the night is only part of intimidation campaign, the Israeli authorities are also targeting our supporters and journalists. They want us to stop our non-violent demonstrations, but as long as our land is being stolen, we cannot stop.”

Background:

The recent raids began concurrently with the opening of a legal trial in Montreal. The village of Bil’in has taken two companies registered in Canada (Green Park International & Green Mount International) to court for participating in war crimes by building settlements on Bil’in’s land under the 2000 Canadian Crimes Against Humanity and War Crimes Statute (which incorporates both the articles of the Fourth Geneva Convention and the Rome Statute into Canadian federal law).

Since the trail began Israeli forces have arrested 30 people (most of which are under 18). Twenty-one residents of Bil’in remain in Israeli detention.

Through Israel’s interrogation and intimidation tactics, some of arrested youth have falsely ‘confessed’ that the Bil’in Popular Committee urges the demonstrators to throw stones. With such ‘confessions’, Israeli forces then proceed to raid the village at night invade homes and arrest leaders of the non-violent struggle in the community.

Two of the three popular committee members who traveled to Montreal to represent the villages case , Mohammad Khatib and Mohammad Abu Rahme were arrested and have since been released on bail. (see B’Tselem report: http://www.btselem.org/english/separation_barrier/20090818_night_arrests_in_bilin.asp).

Another leading Bil’in non-violent activist, Adeeb Abu Rahme, remains in detention since his arrest during a non-violent demonstration on 10 July 2009 (see report & video: http://palsolidarity.org/2009/07/7652. Adib has been charged with “incitement to damage the security of the area.”

On 29 August 2009, two additional Bil’in houses were simultaneously raided by at least 40 soldiers, arresting Ashraf Al-Khatib (age 29) and Hamru Bornat (age 24). A local cameraman, Haitham Al-Khatib, brother of the arrested Ashraf, was repeatedly forcibly moved and hit, and threatened with arrest unless he stopped filming. Soldiers declared his home a “closed military zone” but could not produce any military order.

The Palestinian village of Bil’in has become an international symbol of the Palestinian popular struggle. For almost 5 years, its residents have been continuously struggling against the de facto annexation of more than 50% of their farmlands, confiscated for the construction of the Apartheid Wall.

In a celebrated decision, the Israeli Supreme Court ruled on the 4 September 2007 that the current route of the wall in Bil’in was illegal and needs to be dismantled; the ruling however has not been implemented. The struggle of the village to liberate its lands and stop the illegal settlements has been internationally recognized and has earned the popular committee in Bil’in the Carl von Ossietzky Meda award