International Solidarity Movement
10th April 2010
Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) used tear gas, rubber-coated steel bullets, skunk, and percussion grenades to suppress the popular struggle in An Nabi Salih. Despite the repression, over 100 villagers joined by 30-40 Israelis and internationals demonstrated for over seven hours against Halamish settlement expansion and it’s usurpation of farmland and An Nabi Salih’s freshwater spring. IOF injured over fifteen people. The injuries included the following: severe tear gas inhalation, a lacerated scalp, a broken arm and various rubber-coated steel bullet wounds.
The usual and jovial pre-demonstration atmosphere was experienced in the radiant sun; a welcomed respite for those who frequent An Nabi Salih on Friday afternoons. After 3 months of weekly demonstration, the zeal for and dedication to justice has not left the villagers and the outsiders who join the residents of An Nabi Salih. Their cries for unity in Palestine rang off the walls in village. Although, the zeal thrives in this village, the repression of their struggle has slowly intensified.
As the demonstrators rounded the familiar corner on their march to their lands, two IOF jeeps awaited about 70 meters down the road. Fear seemed not to grip the hearts of the villagers. They marched towards the jeeps, ignoring them as a threat. A tempest of tear gas rained down on the demonstration. 30-40 canisters, shot from apparatus attached to the hood of a jeep, fell in a space of about ten meters by ten meters. Demonstrators had to watch the sky, so as not to be struck by the heavy aluminum canisters, while at the same time moving from the area so as not to suffer severe tear gas inhalation.
One minute after the mass tear gassing, a large white truck came through the jeep blockade and stopped at the space where myriad of tear gas canisters had just fallen. It began shooting skunk from a water cannon attached to the top of its cab. As the turret pivoted, it sprayed skunk in a 70 meter radius around the truck.
When the skunk truck retreated, the demonstrators came to the junction where the mayhem had ensued. They continued their demonstration here demanding their right to march to their lands. The sharp and eerie twang of rubber-coated steel bullets bouncing off the street sign were slightly off-putting to some. This sound solidified the notion that the rubber-coated steel bullets were coming within centimeters of the demonstrator’s heads.
Press attempted to conduct interviews with villagers, but the IOF disregarded the freedom that the press is supposed to enjoy. Tear gas canisters were shot directly at cameramen and reporters. The media representatives were forced to take refuge in a bus stop.
The residents continued their demonstration until the IOF soldiers ran out of rubber-coated steel bullets and tear gas rounds. The soldiers were forced to retreat to re-supply. In this time, residents of An Nabi Salih accompanied by Israelis and Internationals engaged in organized and non-violent tactics to ensure the IOF would not be able to gain access to the village again. Despite their efforts, IOF soldiers ran through the fields of the village and shot tear gas through windows of homes resulting in severe tear gas inhalation of several children and elderly women.
The demonstrators succeeded in going alongside the soldiers and thus scaring them to retreat. As the demonstrators retook their fields, the soldiers watched at a cautious distance. The villagers held their position for about an hour until nearly 25 soldiers and border police sprinted across the fields shooting rubber-coated steel bullets. One youth was shot three times; once in the leg, once in the arm and once in the head. He suffered a lacerated scalp and a broken arm.
The IOF invaded the village again and used, what most demonstrators described as, a stronger version of tear gas. Another house was gassed causing a pregnant woman to be taken away in a Red Crescent ambulance. Young demonstrators laid down in the road trying to overcome the effects of this seemingly concentrated form of CS gas.
Despite this repression, An Nabi Salih had no plans to halt their demonstration, nor do they plan to call-off their weekly non-violent expressions of collective anger.
The hilltop village of An Nabi Saleh has a population of approximately 500 residents and is located 30 kilometers northeast of Ramallah along highway 465. The demonstrations protest the illegal seizure of valuable agricultural land and the uprooting in January 2010 of hundreds of the village resident’s olive trees by the Hallamish (Neve Zuf) settlement located opposite An Nabi Saleh. Conflict between the settlement and villagers reawakened in the past month due to the settlers’ attempt to re-annex An Nabi Saleh land despite an Israeli court decision in December 2009 that awarded the property rights of the land to the An Nabi Saleh residents. The confiscated land of An Nabi Saleh is located on the Hallamish side of Highway 465 and is just one of many expansions of the illegal settlement since it’s establishment in 1977.