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Protests across the West Bank

International Solidarity Movement, August 6th, 2010

An Nabi Salih: This Friday, August 6th, around 100 Palestinians, Israelis and internationals took part in An Nabi Salih’s weekly nonviolent demonstration against the illegal Halamish settlement’s theft of the village’s land and water supply. Regardless of the illegality of firing tear gas projectiles at body height, a practice which has caused many casualties in the village and last week injured an international female protestor, the Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) continue to use this method in an attempt to quash the peaceful protests.

In response to the children symbolically throwing stones at IOF armored jeeps, tear gas projectiles were fired both directly at the children and also into the village, setting fire to one family’s garden. Despite the military’s refusal to use the fire extinguishers they carried with them whilst inspecting the blaze, international, Israeli and Palestinian demonstrators collaborated in attempting to extinguish the fire with bottles and buckets of water filled in neighbouring houses.

During this period, Israeli soldiers forcefully entered one of the aforementioned houses, in which women and children were collecting water to put the fire out. Several internationals and Palestinians entered the house in order to protect its inhabitants from the soldiers’ aggression. At this point a soldier attacked a Danish protestor, bashing his head against the wall.

One fire engine was later allowed on the scene, and the fire was extinguished after over two hours. The military continued to fire tear gas canisters at children throughout this period, and later began using both sound grenades and rubber coated steel bullets in addition.

Despite the IOF’s grossly disproportionate use of violence in order to repress the demonstration, the protest continued for several hours, with the majority of its participants – including more than twenty children – standing directly in front of the soldiers, chanting, singing and making peace signs.

In answer to these peaceful actions, two demonstrators (one Italian and one Israeli) were violently seized by soldiers and detained for over 5 hours in Halamish settlement’s military base without reason. The two protestors were standing in solidarity with villagers as soldiers attempted to arrest a Palestinian, again without cause.

The protest at An Nabi Saleh has taken place since January 2010, because of repeated attempts at land theft by nearby Israeli settlements – despite an Israeli court decision in December 2009 that awarded the property rights of the land to An Nabi Saleh residents. Stolen village land now lies on the other side of Highway 465 and is controlled by the illegal Hallamish settlement which has been expanding and colonizing Palestinian land since 1977.

A protester at Ni'lin symbolically smashing the wall

Ni’lin: The protest in the village of Ni’lin on Friday August 6th mourned the loss of Yousef Amireh, who was killed 2 years ago by an Israeli soldier who shot him in the head with a rubber-coated steel bullet on July 30th 2008.

Shot in this way at the age of 17, Amireh had been demonstrating against the murder of another child from Ni’lin – 10-year-old Ahmed Mousa – killed by the Israeli army the day before Amireh, and whose death was commemorated in last week’s Ni’lin protest.

The demonstration to mark this painful anniversary, which followed 6 hours of mourning in the village, was attended by international and Israeli activists as well as Palestinians. Protestors marched towards the Apartheid Wall, holding pictures of the two boys while  chanting slogans in remembrance of the two innocent children murdered by soldiers. They held a banner which read: “We will never forget you Yousef, you will stay in our hearts” and called for the illegal wall to be brought down, with one protestor bearing a hammer to smash a part of the wall symbolically.  The Israeli soldiers started shooting a lot of tear gas into the crowd and 5 protesters suffered breathing difficulties after the inhalation of toxic tear gas. Luckily, no serious injuries were incurred by any of the demonstrators and no arrests were made, despite Israeli soldiers moving towards the village, firing tear gas at the group and chasing protesters hoping to arrest them.

The construction of the wall in Ni’lin was delayed by a court injunction from the Israeli Supreme Court and by massive daily protests, as well as the wall in its entirety being declared illegal by the International Court of Justice. It serves to annex many thousands of dunams of  Palestinian land to nearby illegal Israeli settlements such as Modi’in Ilit. Since the killings of Mousa and Amireh, three other Ni’lin residents have been killed by the Israeli army, and American solidarity activist Tristan Anderson was shot in the head with an illegal high-velocity tear gas canister on 13th March 2009.

On the second anniversary of her son’s death, Yousef’s mother said that the village would remain steadfast and continue to protest against the Apartheid Wall. Yousef’s brothers said that they will never surrender and will always honor what Yousef died for: a free and peaceful Ni’lin. Saeed Amireh from Ni’lin said: “For every one of us who gets killed, thousands will stand up and refuse to surrender to the inhuman forces that insult life and try to deny us a peaceful and dignified existence. No person on this planet should be denied freedom and peace and dignity. For this, we will always stand up and struggle.”

Bil’in: This Friday over 200 Palestinian, Israeli and international protesters gathered in the village Bil’in to call for an end to the building of the illegal wall separating the villagers from their land. The Israeli army responded the peaceful protest with a large amount of teargas.

The demonstrators first gathered as usual by the community center in the village after noon prayers, and included a large group from a political Palestinian summer camp who had come to the village to join in solidarity with the local protesters. The march started with spirited chanting and went from the village towards the fence. Soldiers came out from the gate and faced the protesters in the olive fields – stopping them from reaching the fence. Protesters argued with the soldiers and continued chanting for about ten minutes before the Israeli army started to fire teargas towards the crowd. Most of the protesters ran back towards the village, while a smaller group remained in the olive fields continuing the protest for another half hour. No one is reported to have been hurt or arrested during the protest.

The protest against the illegal Apartheid Wall which cuts off the villagers from their farmland, causing severe economic damage to the village, has happened every week since. March 2005, and over the years has become an international symbol of the popular struggle for freedom and justice in Palestine, Bil’in itself has lost around half of its agricultural land – to illegal settlements and the illegal Apartheid Wall. Despite being ruled illegal by the International Court of Justice in 2004, Israel continues to build the wall, and completed a route which steals Bil’in farmland even though is own Supreme Court also deemed it illegal. Prominent leaders of the popular struggle – including Abdallah and Adeeb Abu Rahmah – have been imprisoned, in an attempt to quash the resistance. Mohammed Khatib was this week prevented from travelling abroad, against the orders of a court. On 17th April 2009 Israeli soldiers shot and killed Bil’in resident and regular protest attendee Bassem Abu Rahma with a high-velocity tear gas canister.

Al Ma’sara: Around 60 people demonstrated in Al Ma’sara on Friday August 6th, about half of them internationals, joining the locals in solidarity with their struggle. Members of the Popular Committee welcomed the internationals, and made special mention of Japanese participants, expressing solidarity with their nation on the anniversary of the destruction and death wrought by the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Some parallels were drawn with the suffering of Palestinians today.

Two peace and justice delegations from Canada and France also participated in the demonstration which as always aimed to reach village lands stolen by the military occupation forces for the nearby illegal settlements. Palestinian demonstrators and their international supporters were presented with a written military order by four soldiers, in an attempt to deter the protest by declaring it a closed military zone .But chanting slogans of ‘Free Palestine’ and ‘The Wall Must Fall’ demonstrators continued their march past the soldiers regardless and only stopped when they were physically prevented from going further because of three army jeeps blocking the road.

Israeli occupation forces in An Nabi Salih

The demonstrators instead sat down en masse in front of the occupying forces. Speeches by members of the Popular Committee were followed by united chants from the crowd demanding peace, justice, access to land and the end of Israeli Apartheid. Members of both the Canadian and French delegations also sang resistance songs from their home countries. The demonstration reached its conclusion peacefully with no assaults by the Israeli Occupation Forces.

Renowned for their creativity, protests in Al Ma’sara have been organized since November 2006, when Israel started constructing the wall in the region. Roughly 3,500 dunams of land are stolen by the wall and annexed to the illegal settlements which surround the cluster of nine Palestinian villages of which Al Ma’sara is one. The path of the wall in the area also cuts through the main road to Bethlehem, 13 kilometers to the north, which villagers depend on for access to basic needs such as medical services and education. Israeli soldiers have used unnecessary violence and weapons to suppress the peaceful protests in the village – including the use of sound bombs, and tear gas grenades.