19 March 2010
UPDATE: Huwaida Arraf released on 20 March after being illegally under arrest for 31 hours. Eight of these hours were spent standing in the cold in the illegal Halamish settlement. During this time she witnessed the border police by whom she was detained abuse the two Palestinian men who were also illegally arrested, Omar, 23, and Amjad, 22. She was treated with vulgar verbal abuse. After refusing to stare at wall, the police became particular violent. They picked her up by her handcuffed arms and threw onto the pavement. She was brought to Ramle Prison and released without seeing a judge.
Friday’s demonstration in An Nabi Saleh saw an increase in violence and collective punishment from the Israeli military, as twenty-five demonstrators were injured, windows of cars and homes were intentionally shattered, and three were arrested. ISM volunteer Ellen Stark was shot at point blank range (4 meters) with a rubber bullet as she stood with medics, Popular Committee members and other internationals. ISM co-founder Huwaida Arraf was arrested while negotiating with the IOF to allow Ellen through the military line to get to the hospital. According to Ellen, “we were standing on Palestinian land, in support of the village who’s land has been confiscated but we weren’t even demonstrating yet. We were standing with medics who were also shot with tear gas.”
Ellen’s had to undergo surgery to remove the bullet, which was lodged between her ulna and radius of her right arm. Her wrist is broken as a result of the bullet impact. As of 12:00 pm Saturday, Palestine time, Huwaida has yet to be located in the Israeli prison system.
Over an hour before the demonstration began, soldiers took position on a hilltop near the house of an An Nabi Saleh Popular Committee member signaling to activists that the peaceful march would likely be cut short yet again by soldiers using crowd dispersal tactics such as tear gas and sound grenades. The demonstration was able to take it’s usual course, as IOF soldiers blocked the path of the activists, and began to surround them from multiple sides. Only ten minutes into the demonstration, the army began firing tear gas and rubber bullets at a small group of international, Israeli, and Palestinian activists only four meters away, injuring International Solidarity Movement volunteer, Ellen Stark. Omar Saleh Tamimi, Amjad Abed Alkhafeez Tamimi and International Solidarity Movement co-founder Huwaida Arraf were arrested as they asked Israeli military personnel to stop firing tear gas canisters and rubber bullets at Stark as she was helped to safety.
Israeli forces then entered the center of the village where they continued firing tear gas, sound grenades, and rubber bullets for several hours. Over twenty five were injured, including an 84-year old woman who suffered from tear gas inhalation after tear gas canisters were fired into her house, and three others who were shot with rubber bullets, including an Israeli activist; four remain hospitalized.
Later in the demonstration, soldiers began shooting rubber bullets through the windows of residents’ houses, shops, and cars, shattering their homes and livelihoods, as they used collective punishment to attempt to suppress these weekly demonstrations.
These incidents comes as the Israeli government intensifies repression of the unarmed, popular resistance to the occupation of the West Bank, illegal land confiscation by settlements such as Halamish, and construction of the illegal apartheid wall. Two weeks ago in An Nabi Saleh, 14-year-old Ehab Fadel Beir Ghouthi’s skull was fractured as a rubber bullet shot by the Israeli military, leaving him in a coma for several days. He remains in a hospital in Ramallah where he is recovering; his condition is stable and improving.
Today and every Friday since January, around 100 un-armed demonstrators leave the village center in an attempt to reach a spring which boarders land confiscated by Jewish settlers. The District Coordination Office has confirmed the spring is on Palestinian land but nearly a kilometer before reaching the spring, the demonstration is routinely met with dozens of soldiers armed with M16 assault rifles, tear gas, rubber bullets and stun grenades.
The Halamish Settlement has confiscated nearly half of An Nabi Saleh’s orchard and farmland since it was founded in 1977. According to village residents the settlement confiscates more land each year without consent or compensation of the landowners.