12 February 2010
Activists in Ma’asara village near Bethlehem changed their demonstration route today and marched to the “settler only” road outside the village. Once they reached Highway 60 the demonstration was surrounded by Israeli soldiers and the area was declared a closed military zone. Demonstrators were then besieged by tear gas as they made their way back to the village. Soldiers began following people into the village once the activists crossed the razor wire fence that the military uses to block the progress of weekly demonstrations. Many people suffered from tear gas inhalation at today’s demonstration, and many children were terrified once the military invaded the village.
At the beginning of 2010 the Israeli military began intensifying the level of violence used in their methods to repress non-violent demonstrations in villages opposing the apartheid wall and settlements. Compared to Bil’in and Nil’in villages, which have dealt with military violence for their involvement in campaigns to halt the building of the apartheid wall and illegal Israeli settlement for the last five years, this is a relatively new occurrence in Ma’asara. International activists have been intermittently staying in Ma’asara to document and hopefully diminish soldier violence since the beginning of the year. The army has been targeting activists and popular committee members involved in organizing non-violent demonstrations in a series of night raids. People from the village expressed concern that the military would return tonight and continue targeting activists.