31 October 2009
The village of Iraq Burin, in the southern region of Nablus, came under attack again today in a display of force yet more brutal than last Saturday’s clashes with settlers and Israeli military forces. Palestinian youth clashed with 30 settlers on the edge of the village only to be driven back, as Iraq Burin was invaded by approximately 50 Israeli soldiers, firing tear gas, rubber-coated steel bullets and sound bombs on civilian residents. One man and woman were injured and another man arrested.
In a repeat of last week’s events, at 2pm 30 settlers approached the eastern edge of Iraq Burin from the illegal settlement of Bracha, reaching a now-decrepit well that lies on a small hill opposite the village. In a bizarre display of provocation (the well is located in very close visual proximity to Iraq Burin itself, and well within its rightful territory) the settlers proceeded to not only pray on the lands, facing the Palestinian youth that had gathered on the opposite side of the valley to watch, but in fact descend in to the well to swim.
The theatrics were shortlived however, as once again the settlers took up stones and began hurling them at the young boys from the village, who returned the attack with more stones. The Israeli army, who had been observing the situation from the nearby military watchtower that lies between Bracha and Iraq Burin, chose only now to intervene. 40 soldiers, arriving in six jeeps along a small agricultural road from the settlement now entered the fray on foot, driving the Palestinians back to defend their village as the settlers retreated, of their own volition, to the well to watch the ensuing violence from their vantage point.
As the youth were forced back to the village by the army, another two jeeps carrying a further 10 soldiers entered Iraq Burin from the western side, trapping them between the two units. Israeli Occupation Forces, now well within the confines of the village unleashed a torrent of tear gas and sound bombs and fired rubber-coated steel bullets at the retreating Palestinian youth.
Three ISM activists entered Iraq Burin at approximately 4pm, to the sound of gunfire and detonating tear gas and sound grenades. The stench of the gas and smoke hung heavy in the air as young boys with rocks – their only weapons – in their hands ran past and families – some huddled around their windows, some gathered on rooftops – watched the scene unveil below. Activists witnessed IOF forces aim long-range tear gas directly at youth in the street, passing less than a foot from their heads, and sound bombs fall within metres.
The army exited Iraq Burin a half hour later, firing more gas back upon the village as they went. Not long after a Red Crescent ambulance was able to depart for Raffidiya Hospital, to provide Sayad Faqeeh with immediate medical attention. Faqeeh had been hit directly in the foot by a long-range tear gas canister, which not only releases clouds of suffocating smoke but at a range of 350m is often used by the IOF as a – at times, fatal – weapon itself.
As activists were able to move through the village they discovered a second victim, Salwa Faqeeh. An Israeli soldier had beaten her in the face and chest with the butt of his gun as she tried to stop them beating her husband, Wael Faqeeh, who was subsequently arrested. ISM learned that he had been released approximately 3 hours later.
The Saturday attacks are fast becoming an expectation for the people of Iraq Burin, who say this year has seen a chilling increase in the level of settler violence in the region. The Israeli military’s subsequent display of brute force may have become a harsh reality for the village, but serves only to strengthen its spirit of resistance.