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An Nabi Saleh demonstrates against violence in the midst of extensive brushfires

International Solidarity Movement

16 May 2010

Demonstrators begin marching in An Nabi Saleh

Demonstrators begin marching in An Nabi Saleh

This past Friday, May 14, the town of An Nabi Saleh held its weekly demonstration. Overly aggressive Israeli military tactics started a colossal brushfire, which reaped viable farmland. The weekly demonstration confronts the illegal expansion of Halamish settlement onto village land. Great local support brought out over 100 Palestinians, Israelis and Internationals.

The overwhelming drive and enthusiasm for justice rang through megaphones as chants and arms raised in pride as the demonstration moved down the valley. Israeli soldiers began to move forward from highway 465, and the peaceful demonstration soon got pushed back into the village as the Israeli military surrounded it on three sides. The use of excessive amounts of tear gas, percussion grenades, and rubber-coated steel bullets pushed villagers into a dangerously blind situation. Tear gas fired illegally from An Nabi Saleh’s hilltop ridge downhill was aimed directly at village demonstrators. Small brush fires started by tear gas canisters were fanned by the wind and engulfed the land in a massive brushfire.

As villagers retreated, soldiers chased demonstrators with tied attack dogs. Nobody was caught or injured from this unusually violent tactic. Tear gas rained down into the narrow streets of An Nabi Saleh, smoking out residents, causing great amounts of gas inhalation and setting fire to the private plots of local land owners. After many hours of holding back the Israeli military from invading the village, burnt fields smoldered and soldiers retreated while villagers dispersed with heads held high.

Tear gas canisters caused extensive brushfires in An Nabi Saleh

Tear gas canisters caused extensive brushfires in An Nabi Saleh

Two Israeli activists were detained during the demonstration, one of whom was dragged down the road and then beaten in the police car while in custody.

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. Today and every Friday since January 2010, around 100 un-armed demonstrators leave the village center in an attempt to reach a spring which borders land confiscated by Israeli 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-coated steel bullets and percussion grenades.

The demonstrations protest Israel’s apartheid, which has manifested itself in An Nabi Saleh through land confiscation. The illegal Halamish (Neve Zuf) settlement, located opposite An Nabi Saleh, has illegally seized nearly of half of the village’s valuable agricultural land. In January 2010, hundreds of the village residents’ olive trees were uprooted by settlers. Conflict between the settlement and villagers reawakened 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 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 its establishment in 1977.