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Israel’s repression leaves dozens wounded in Jerusalem

International Solidarity Movement

17 March 2010

In reaction to the blanket West Bank closure and Israel’s severe limitation of entrance into Al-Aqsa Mosque, demonstrations spread through Jerusalem. Police and soldiers used percussion grenades, tear gas, rubber bullets and physical assaults in an attempt to quell Palestinians show of disdain. Confrontations were reported in Isawiya and Wadi-Joz. Reports claimed that nearly 100 demonstrators were injured (about 25 seriously) and over 70 arrested.

An ominous and anticipatory air hung over the Old City on Tuesday. The normal banter of the Muslim quarter was replaced with closed shops and anxious stares. This was in response to Israel’s closure of much of the Old City. This closure only extended to Palestinians attempting to pray at the holy site. Tourists and Israeli school children were allowed free reign within its walls. The tourists’ interpretation of the situation was far removed from reality. When asked why access was limited throughout the Muslim Quarter, many responded it was because of Hamas. There was no discussion of the imprisonment of Palestinians in the West Bank. If pressed further, they usually responded that Hamas was upset because “the Muslims thought had a right to a disputed holy site.” Justice, religious freedom and unfettered access to the third holiest site of one’s religion never seemed to enter the discourse.

Although there was much dignified rage expressed nonviolently that day, these tourists were not privy to any of it. Thousands of police clad in riot gear, soldiers armed with automatic assault rifles ensured that any nonviolent expression of this anger was squashed immediately. As tourists took photos and meandered around the guns and those that carried them, men lined up to pray outside Al-Aqsa and across the street from the Old City. While the police effectively insulated the tourists from any sign of nonviolent resistance (handcuffing Palestinians to plain-clothes police officers, so arrests would go unnoticed to the untrained eye), they couldn’t stop it in the open air of Wadi-Joz and Isawiya.

As the Sun set the signs of resistance were readily apparent in Isawiya. Smoldering tires, barricades and youth placed in strategic positions spattered the hillsides. The day had been long for them. Their nonviolent demonstration began around seven AM and quit with the sun. The same was true for Wadi-Joz. However, the price that was paid was human and dear. Amidst the rapacious repression of the IOF and Israeli police, many were wounded. Wounded merely for demanding justice in a land where they are prisoners and unable to express the spiritual extension of their culture in places they hold so dear.

International solidarity activists visited demonstrators injured in clashes between Palestinian Jerusalemites and Israeli occupation forces in Al-Makasad Hospital, including 16 year old Muhammad Ibrahim Afanih from Abu Dis and a 14 year old boy from Ar-ram. The 14 year old, wishing to remain anonymous, received a rubber-coated steel bullet to his finger, removing its tip from his hand, when young demonstrators were ambushed by Israeli soldiers in the streets of Ar-ram neighborhood. Afanih was shot in the leg with a rubber-coated steel bullet by an Israeli soldier when a large military force opened fire on demonstrators in Abu Dis. He was then physically attacked by 4 soldiers, who continued to beat him before pulling him to the curb, where he was forced to wait approximately 10 minutes before the soldiers called for an ambulance. The ambulance was detained at Zayeam checkpoint for 15 minutes as Afanih continued blood from the gunshot wound before the vehicle was permitted to proceed to Al-Makasad Hospital. He was one of 10 injured from the Abu Dis neighborhood. Afanih reported that soldiers had used sound bombs, tear gas grenades, rubber-coated steel bullets and live ammunition against demonstrators. He will undergo an operation on his leg tomorrow, and remain in hospital for 7 days.