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Israeli government prepared to return land annexed from Iraq Burin

2 October 2009

Iraq Burin has re-commenced its lively weekly demonstrations after a month-long Ramadan hiatus, with approximately 150 villagers and internationals joining forces on Friday, the 25th of September, to protest the occupation. The village’s return to form was welcomed by the Israeli Occupation Forces with standard fare “crowd dispersal” techniques. In the following week the village received a statement from the Israeli government that it was prepared to return an unspecified amount of contested farmland that lies between Iraq Burin and the illegal settlement of Bracha, signifying an important breakthrough in the ongoing battle across the West Bank against land annexation and settlement expansion.

Following the midday prayer, the protesters marched from the centre to the edge of the village where a public prayer was planned to take place on the contested farmland. Before the protesters were able to amass for the prayer the first sound bombs and tear gas canisters were released by IOF soldiers moving in from either side of the valley, surrounding the protest. Settlers observed from a hill top whilst the crowd dispersed, as a deluge of tear gas canisters were fired directly at protesters. Many suffered effects of suffocation due to gas inhalation and two Palestinian men were removed from the scene on stretchers by Red Crescent personnel for further medical treatment.

Much to the amusement of protesters Israeli soldiers themselves were forced to scatter during the protest as they suffered from plumes of their own tear gas fired by their comrades on the opposite hill top. The wind was not working in their favor as gas directed at the crowd engulfed soldiers due to a well timed breeze.

In the aftermath of the demonstration a checkpoint was established by the military at the main exit point to the village to track movement. Those who had come from surrounding regions to support Iraq Burin’s resistance were forced to climb down the mountainside in order to avoid the checkpoint security due to fear of arrest and reprisal.

Iraq Burin has aimed to take its place amongst Bil’in and Nil’in as examples peaceful resistance  and  rallying of regional and media support against the occupation. Has the first breakthrough already been made? An unprecedented declaration by the Israeli government to return some of the annexed land to the village was released in the wake of this latest demonstration, mounting faith in the power of protest for some, and skepticism in others. A secondary statement was issued by the government, expressing a wish to “lease” the land from the village. The mayor of  has responded that the land should be returned to the rightful owners for the village’s agricultural means. Should the declaration be withdrawn, or on undesirable terms, the weekly demonstrations will re-commence, no doubt gathering momentum and media attention.