29 January 2010
During today’s weekly demonstration, Iyad Burnat, the head of the Popular Committee Against the Wall and Settlements, was directly hit in his hand by a tear-gas canister, which caused major burns. Palestine TV correspondent, Haroon Amayreh, as well as a member of the Central Committee of Fatah, Sultan Aboul-Enein, and dozens of Palestinian, Israeli, and international peace activists, who had joined the demonstration in solidarity, suffered from tear-gas inhalation including fainting as the Israeli occupying forces violently suppressed today’s protest against the apartheid wall and settlements in the village of Bil’in.
The peaceful demonstration was organized by the Popular Committee Against the Wall and Settlements, and started at the center of the village of Bil’in after midday prayers. A member of the Central Committee of Fatah, Sultan Aboul-Enein and Fatah official in Lebanon, Fatah spokesman, Ahmad Alsaf, as well as Israeli and international peace activists participated in today’s protest in solidarity with a large group of people from the village of Bil’in as well as from neighboring villages.
As the protesters marched towards the western gate of the wall, built on the land of Bil’in, raising Palestinian flags and chanting slogans that called for national unity and for support of the popular resistance against the wall and settlements, they were met with ferocious attacks by the Israeli army. The occupying forces fired volleys of tear-gas canisters and rubber-coated steel bullets at the demonstrators before chasing them all the way inside the limits of the village of Bil’in.
The Israeli army recently started to use special forces and border police during these weekly demonstrations. They ambushed the village, and tried to encircle the protesters from behind in an attempt to arrest them. As they stormed into the village and chased after the young demonstrators, violent confrontations between the two sides erupted whereby the Israeli army shot live ammunition in the air to disperse the youths within the village. Furthermore, special forces pursued journalists and peace activists.
The West Bank village of Bil’in is located 12 kilometers west of Ramallah and 4 km east of the Green Line. It is an agricultural village, around 4,000 dunams (988 acres) in size, and populated by approximately 1,800 residents.
Starting in the early 1980’s, and more significantly in 1991, approximately 56% of Bil’in’s agricultural land was declared ‘State Land’ for the construction of the settlement bloc, Modi’in Illit. Modi’in Illit holds the largest settler population of any settlement bloc, with over 42,000 residents and plans to achieve a population of 150,000 by 2020 (http://www.btselem.org/Download/200512_Under_the_Guise_of_Security_eng.pdf).
In 2004, the International Court of Justice ruled that the Wall in its entirety is illegal under international law, particularly under International Humanitarian Law. The Court went on to rule that Israel’s settlements are illegal under the same laws, noting that the Wall’s route is intimately connected to the settlements adjacent to the Green Line, further annexing 16% of the West Bank to Israel.
· Despite the advisory opinion, early in 2005, Israel began constructing the separation Wall on Bil’in’s land, cutting the village in half in order to place Modi’in Illit and its future growth on the “Israeli side” of the Wall.
· In March 2005, Bil’in residents began to organize almost daily direct actions and demonstrations against the theft of their lands. Gaining the attention of the international community with their creativity and perseverance, Bil’in has become a symbol for popular resistance. Almost five years later, Bil’in continues to have weekly Friday protests.
· Bil’in has held annual conferences on popular resistance since 2006, providing a forum for activists, intellectuals, and leaders to discuss strategies for the non-violent struggle against the Occupation (http://www.bilin-village.org/english/conferences/).
· Israeli forces have used sound and shock grenades, water cannons, rubber-coated steel bullets, tear gas grenades, tear gas canisters and 0.22 caliber live ammunition against protesters.
· On 17 April 2009, Bassem Abu Rahma was shot with a high-velocity tear gas projectile in the chest by Israeli forces and subsequently died from his wounds at a Ramallah hospital.
· Out of the 75 residents who have been arrested in connection to demonstrations against the Wall, 27 were arrested since the beginning of a night raid campaign on 23 June 2009. Israeli armed forces have been regularly invading homes and forcefully searching for demonstration participants, targeting the leaders of the Popular Committee Against the Wall and Settlements, as well as teenage boys accused of throwing stones at the Wall. Seventeen currently remain in detention, 10 of which are minors.
· To date, 75 residents have been arrested in connection with demonstrations against the Wall.
· In addition to its grassroots movement, Bil’in turned to the courts in the fall of 2005. In September 2007, 2 years after they initiated legal proceedings, the Israeli High Court of Justice ruled that due to illegal construction in part of Modi’in Illit, unfinished housing could not be completed and that the route of the Wall be moved several hundred meters west, returning 25% of Bil’in’s lands to the village. To date, the high court ruling has not been implemented and settlement construction continues.
· In July 2008, Bil’in commenced legal proceedings before the Superior Court of Quebec against Green Park International Inc and Green Mount International Inc for their involvement in constructing, marketing and selling residential units in the Mattityahu East section of Modi’in Illit.