International Solidarity Movement
24 January 2010
Israeli forces opened fire on Iraq Burin villagers Saturday, following a settler attack that has become almost a weekly routine in the Palestinian village near Nablus. One villager was injured and treated at the hospital after being struck in the thigh by a tear gas canister.
An expectant atmosphere hangs over the village each Saturday now. The peaceful silence, punctuated only by donkey brays or the sound of children playing, offers a strange prelude to what each resident knows is coming. ISM activists have been maintaining a presence in Iraq Burin over the Saturday period – the Jewish religious holiday of Shabbat – but better known in the Occupied Territories for the territorial violence waged on this day by Israeli settlers on the rural Palestinian population.
Israeli military were sighted positioning themselves on the hill to the south from approximately 12pm, drawing onlookers from the village. A group of 15 settlers appeared on the hillside, where a long stand off took place between the village’s youth and the settlers from across the valley.
The settlers made frequent and provocative incursions half-way down the hill, returning to top only to coordinate with the Israeli soldiers. The soldiers fired one tear gas canister at two men sitting at the bottom of the hill and then seemed to retreat.
After an hour-long lull, the settlers appeared about one kilometer to east at the crest of the hill. This time they were brandishing slings and began to launch their projectiles at some shabab holding their ground 50 meters down the hill. The Israeli soldiers seemed to enjoy this spectacle, as they loafed 200 meters directly to the east, watching the scene for nearly half an hour. The soldiers then began to launch tear gas into the group of Palestinians on the hill who were already being bombarded with rocks slung by the handful of settlers up hill.
The soldiers shot two canisters of tear gas across the small valley and into the crowd of spectators which was comprised of young children, old men and internationals. There was a lull in the violence as the Israeli soldiers escorted the settlers up the hill and back to their settlements. The sharp twang of ammunition bouncing off the tin walls of the barn behind the villagers initiated a hasty retreat of all those present on or near that hillside.
The reason for such urgency in flight is lost to an outsider, but for the locals it is familiar dance. Three Humvees quickly barreled through the entire village and rapid successions of tear gas, sound grenades and rubber-coated steel bullets could be heard rocketing towards the hillside everyone had just vacated.
Once the soldiers realized that everyone had left the hillside, they began to spread terror throughout the village upon their exodus. Volley after volley of tear gas grenades flew into the village, bouncing off homes and threatening to spray families seeking shelter with broken glass. These volleys were punctuated with two to three sound grenades exploding in rapid succession and the firing of rubber-coated steel. Their retreat was made difficult by the lines of boulders that happened to find themselves in the middle of the road every 50 meters.
As they left the village, the soldiers shot tear gas blindly through the black, billowing smoke of a flaming tire. Jubilant shouts arose as they disappeared over the hillside, the villagers’ eyes still streaming from the tear gas.