Around 20 people trying to travel to Iraq Burin from Nablus for the weekly protest on Saturday 10th July, a group made up of Palestinians and international activists, were stopped by armed forces on the road leading to the small village; the media gathered and a protest against this decision ensued.
Despite the attempts from the army to prevent people from attending, the demonstration against illegal Israeli settlements went ahead in the afternoon. The peaceful demonstration was lead by the Palestinian community with the support of 10 internationals whose presence it was hoped might ease the infamously violent and disproportionate tactics of the Israeli forces.
Sound bombs and aluminium and rubber tear gas canisters were used to disperse the crowd. Soldiers chased the demonstrators across the valley and fired tear gas occasionally into the crowds, contrary to international law.
The bus transporting people to the demonstration was prevented from entering the village by a “closed military zone” order which had been put in place that day, and is a method used by Israeli authorities across the West Bank to weaken international, Palestinian and media presence at demonstrations. The activists requested to see official documentation evidencing such an order and the soldiers produced a dubious piece of paper – with sentences blacked out- which they could not verify because it was written in Hebrew. They were denied the right to photograph the document.
Local media then arrived and the group lead a demonstration against the decision to close the road. A member of the local Popular Committee stated to the soldiers that she was entitled to be on that land on account of the fact that it is Palestinian land illegally occupied by Israeli settlers and military. Soldiers and border police multiplied on the site, sniggering at the calls for a free and peaceful state of Palestine. The demonstrators retreated at their own will some choosing to take alternative routes up to the village of Iraq Burin in order to attend the demonstration.
At 1:30 a march began from the edge of the village to the hill where the Israeli settlement of Bracha has prevented farmers from accessing their land. The situation in Iraq Burin is a story severe harassment towards Palestinians from settlers who believe God has given them entitlement to land which has been inhabited for thousands of years by Palestinian people. Tension in the village is high, especially after two young men from the village were killed earlier this year, during a military incursion into the village following a demonstration. In their memory and for a future without settlements the villagers proceeded up the mountain to face the soldiers. Youths symbolically threw stones whilst non-violent activists from ISM, IWPS and Project Hope made their presence known and called for the soldiers and settlers to retreat from Palestinian land, asking for non-violence. As usual tear gas was fired and multiple sound bombs causing demonstrators to run to safety on the other side of the valley. Soldiers also fired aluminium canisters at head height, ignoring the calls from the demonstrators. Fortunately nobody was seriously injured but one American Palestinian returning to his parents’ village fell unconscious from gas inhalation and had to be carried to safety.
This week’s demonstration was less violent than on previous weeks and no arrests were made. Perhaps this is due to an increase in international presence which is consistently lacking in the demonstrations in Iraq Burin. Activists are also calling for a media presence which might further deter the soldiers from firing tear gas, especially into the crowd.