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Bil’in residents call for the release of the village’s prisoners in a weekly Friday demonstration

Bil’in Popular Committee

11 December 2009

Approximately 150 Palestinian, international and Israeli activists gathered in Bil’in today, marking the 22nd anniversary of the start of the First Intifada and calling for the release of the village’s prisoners arrested for their involvement in the non-violent demonstrations against the Wall and settlements built on land stolen from Bil’in.

Demonstrators gathered in the village after the Friday prayers and marched towards the Wall that is being constructed on their land. Organised by the Popular Committee Against the Wall and Settlements, activists raised Palestinian flags and banners condemning Israel’s policy of settlement expansion and the recent arrest campaign conducted by the Israeli military against the residents of Bil’in.

Protesters chanted slogans calling for national unity and rejection of political differences, stressing the need to keep with Palestinian national principles. They expressed their determination to resist the occupation and continue the fight for the release of all political prisoners. Demonstrators demanded the release of all Bil’in’s detainees, including Abdallah Abu Rahmah, coordinator of the Bil’in Popular Committee, who was arrested by Israeli military at 2am on Thursday 10 December and another leading activist, Adeeb Abu Rahmah, who has been held for over five months in sIsraeli prisons.

When the march arrived to the Wall, demonstrators were confronted by the Israeli soldiers, stationed on the other side of the barrier. The army started throwing tear-gas bombs within minutes of the start of the demonstration and, after activists attempted to open the gate supported by barbed wire that separates the villages from their land, the Israeli soldiers escalated their violence and proceeded to fire stun grenades, tear-gas canisters and rubber-coated steel bullets at the crowd. Dozens suffered tear-gas inhalation as result.

The Bil’in Popular Committee Against the Wall expressed their support to the recent initiative of Sweden and the Foreign Ministers of the European Union calling for the recognition of Palestinian state within its 1967 borders, including occupied East Jerusalem as its capital and their rejection of any other proposals compromising the 1967 borders.

As part of a recent escalation of political arrests in Bil’in, Abdallah Abu Rahmah, a school teacher and coordinator of the Bil’in Popular Committee was arrested by Israeli soldiers. At 2am on Thursday, 10 December 2009, nine Israeli military jeeps pulled over at Abdallah Abu Rahmah’s home in the city of Ramallah . Soldiers raided the house and arrested Abu Rahmah from his bed in the presence of his wife and three children. A previous raid targeting Abu Rahmah on 15 September 2009 was executed with such exceptional violence, that a soldier was subsequently indicted for assault. In addition, undercover army units have invaded Bil’in at two occasions last week, searching for Adballah.

His arrest is a part of an ongoing campaign conducted by the Israeli military against the residents of Bil’in and leaders of the Popular Committee Against the Wall and Settlements, in an attempt to discourage them from continuing their non-violent struggle. Since 23 June 2009, 31 residents of Bil’in have been detained by the military.