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Four houses raided in military incursion to West Bank villages Bil’in and Ni’ilin

Popular Struggle Coordination Committee

19 December 2009

For immediate release:

The Palestinian villages of Bil’in and Ni’lin have been invaded by the Israeli military in the early hours of Saturday, 19 December 2009. Soldiers entered both villages at 2.30am and raided houses of four families.

In Bil’in, 5 military jeeps carrying about 30 soldiers entered the village and invaded the house of Yassin Yassin. Family members, woken up by the armed soldiers at the dark of night, were forced to leave the house and stand outside in cold and rain. The raid was conducted in order to arrest Yassin Yassin, wanted for his participation in the village’s regular Friday demonstrations against the Wall and settlements. As Yassin was not present in the house at the time of the raid, the soldiers left a note ordering him to attend questioning at the Ofer prison. Soldiers then continued to conduct a search in a second house.

In a similar scenario, the army invaded two houses in Ni’lin, detaining all family members in one room while searching the houses, looking for a resident of the village. The only reason the military had for searching for this young man was his participation in Ni’lin’s weekly demonstrations.

Sasha Solanas, an American solidarity activist, who was sleeping in one of the invaded houses, said: “The army raided two Ni’lin homes in the middle of the night, looking for a villager suspected of participating in the demonstrations. The recent revival of night raids is part of a new campaign to quash unarmed demonstrations in both Ni’lin and Bil’in. The army has used night raids to scare the villagers into abandoning their just cause.”

Owner of second house raided in Bil’in, Wajeeh Burnat, was questioned by the soldiers about used spent tear-gas canisters and bullets, left on the village’s land by the Israeli military, who fire them at demonstrators. In a non-violent act of resistance, residents of the village collect the used munitions at the end of every demonstration, using them to create art and to showcase the violence used against them by the Israeli army. The Israeli military, however, consider such spent munitions illegal and has recently raised suspicions against a member of the Popular Committee for their possession.

Collection of tear gas and shock grenades that have been picked after a demonstration in Bil'in

Collection of tear gas and shock grenades that have been picked after a demonstration in Bil'in

Art created by Bil'in residents using spent munitions

Art created by Bil'in residents using spent munitions

Mohmmed Khatib, member of the Bil’in Popular Committee said: “The popular struggle is gaining momentum and its growing achievements both in Palestine and world-wide put Israel in a position which makes the military desperate to de-legitimize and stop us. Tonight’s raids are a part of an escalation in Israeli military’s failed attempts to break the spirit of the people of Bil’in and Ni’lin, their popular leadership, and the popular struggle as a whole – aimed at crushing demonstrations against the Apartheid Wall and settlements built on land stolen from both villages.”

Recently, Adv. Gaby Lasky, who represents many of Bil’in’s detainees, was informed by the military prosecution that the army intends to use legal measures as a means of ending the demonstrations. As a part of this strategy, the Israeli military investigators used intimidation techniques to coerce the young boys from the village to testify against the popular leaders. So far, all three detained coordinators of the Bil’in Popular Committee were released for lack of evidence, and, in the case of another member, Mohammed Khatib, the court even found some of the presented evidence to be falsified.

31 residents of Bil’in have been arrested since 23 July 2009, during a night raid and arrest campaign conducted by the Israeli military, targeted at boys accused of throwing stones at the Wall as well as participants and organisers of the weekly demonstrations. Amongst those arrested are Adeeb Abu Rahmah, a leading activist from the village and Abdallah Abu Rahmah, coordinator of the Popular Committee. Adeeb, who has been detained for over five months, is not suspected of committing any violence, but was indicted with a blanket charge of “incitement”, which was very liberally interpreted in this case to include the organizing of grassroots demonstrations.