15 January 2009
Israeli forces must have anticipated the large response to the An Nabi Salih Popular Struggle’s call out for international solidarity in their 4th consecutive Friday demonstration on January 15th. Three International Solidarity Movement (ISM) activists were turned away from the seldom-staffed partial checkpoint of ‘Atara, between Ramallah and An Nabi Salih. Fortunately, a back route was established and the group made it to the village, joining 10 other internationals, a dozen journalists and over 300 Palestinians.
The hilltop village of An Nabi Salih has a population of approximately 500 residents and is located 30 kilometers northeast of Ramallah along highway 465. The demonstration protested the illegal seizure of valuable agricultural land and the January 9th 2010 uprooting of hundreds of the village resident’s olive trees by the Hallamish (Neve Zuf) settlement located on highway 465, opposite An Nabi Salih. Conflict between the settlement and villagers reawakened in the past month due to the settler’s attempt to re-annex An Nabi Salih land despite the December 2009 Israeli court case that ruled the property rights of the land to the An Nabi Salih residents. The confiscated land of An Nabi Salih is located on the Hallamish side of highway 465 and is just unfortunately one of many expansions of the settlement since it’s establishment in 1977.
The plan for the demonstration was to march from the hilltop village and down to the seized fields in an attempt to reach the land. Less than one kilometer into the march, demonstrators met military jeeps, Israeli soldiers and unsparing amounts of tear gas blocking the road. Occupation resisters successfully forced the military to retreat a few hundred meters and an avenue to continue the march towards the fields through a valley between the road an the An Nabi Salih village was created. Military forces defended the settler-confiscated lands from multiple points including the road leading up to the village, highway 465 and a hilltop in An Nabi Salih using tear gas, sound bombs, rubber coated bullets and live ammunition.
Major struggles to reach the land occurred in the valley and on the lower portion of the access road to An Nabi Salih with sporadic outbreaks of force throughout the area. By 4pm, soldiers were forced into retreat to the base of the road (tear gas canisters rained intermittently until dusk) and a deal was made between the Popular Committee and the military for the release of the seven Palestinians arrested during the demonstration, three of which were woman arrested at the demonstration’s inception. Accounts of military violence during their detention at the Hallamish settlement were reported by multiple arrestees. One Palestinian resister was severely wounded by a tear gas canister resulting in a large gash in his head requiring emergency evacuation and medical attention by the Palestinian Red Crescent Society.
Seven International Solidarity Movement volunteers participated in the demonstration by shooting video, taking photos, offering medical aid and witnessing front-line violence and arrests.