Home / Bilin / Weekly protests continue across Palestine

Weekly protests continue across Palestine

20 September 2010 | ISM Media

Palestinian youths open the gate in the apartheid fence in Bil`in

Palestinian youths open the gate in Bil`in. Photo credit: Hamde Abu Rahma

Bil`in

On Friday, 17 September 2010, the people of Bil’in were joined by Israelis and Internationals to protest against the theft of land and the imprisonment by Abdullah and Adeeb Abu Rahma, Ibrahim Burnat and other political prisoners from Bil’in. The demonstration went on for one and a half hours and was met with large amounts of tear gas and rubber-coated steel bullets. After initially firing tear gas from the military base and road, soldiers came through the gate and chased the protesters back towards the village.

This week’s protest called for the release of prisoners, who have been kept in jail under administrative detention (which is to say, without trial) and also the ones who have been victims of false charges and unjust trials in Israeli military courts. People were carrying masks of Abdallah Abu Rahma, who has been held in Ofer Military Prison since November, and is now in the sentencing phase of his trial after being convicted for “incitement”. Other people were wearing masks showing the faces of Gandhi and Martin Luther King. This is to show that Palestinian political prisoners enduring long sentences in Israeli prisons are peaceful activists, who are leading the non-violent struggle against the illegal Israeli occupation.

The soldiers initially fired tear gas from inside a military base near the illegal apartheid wall. One tear gas canister hit an Israeli protester, Tali Shapiro, in her leg, causing pain and bruising. The protesters retreated from the fence due to the tear gas but returned – a process that repeated several times until the soldiers came through the gate. They continued shooting tear gas and also fired rubber-coated steel bullets – shooting one Palestinian youth in the back.

After one and a half hours the demonstration ended and the participants walked back to the village. Abdallah Abu Rahma’s many friends and family are now awaiting the outcome of his sentencing, hoping he will not join the hundreds of political prisoners held in jail many years for taking part in the non violent struggle against the brutal Israeli occupation.

Al-Ma`sara

On Friday, around fifty Palestinians accompanied by thirteen international and Israeli activists assembled in the West Bank village of Al-Ma`sara near Bethlehem. The weekly demonstration is against the illegal Israeli occupation of Palestine and against the land theft by the nearby Gush Etzion settlement bloc, and this week there was also commemoration of the anniversary of the 1982 massacre in the Sabra and Shatila Palestinian refugee camps in Beirut, Lebanon.

Still within the village and far from the illegal settlement (which is built on Palestinian land anyway), the procession was stopped by the Israeli army. The soldiers showed a paper declaring the area a “closed military zone” and threatened to arrest anyone who had not left in sixty seconds. Immediately they began to throw sound grenades and tear gas canisters directly into the group of demonstrators. The group retreated some metres and then soon returned, repeating this five times. In each instance the soldiers threw many sound grenades and tear gas canisters.

Several Palestinian, Israeli and international activists spoke out at the demonstration for around twenty minutes, condemning the occupation and the apartheid regulations it entails for the Palestinians, before returning to the village.

An-Nabi Saleh

There were approximately 60 Palestinians and 20 international and Israeli activists at this week’s nonviolent protest, which began shortly after the noon prayer in the small village of An-Nabi Saleh. As usual, many children took part in the demonstration, and as usual it was they who bore the brunt of the Israeli military’s violence.

The protestors began by attempting to gain access to the spring which was stolen from the village by settlers from the illegal Halamish (Neve Zuf) settlement. This attempt was blocked by military jeeps and armed soldiers. Despite this difficulty, the demonstrators managed to enter on to the road leading to the spring, but many were prevented from continuing further.

The majority of the women and children then managed to move further down the road, and sat and chanted and sung when they were stopped by the soldiers once again. The rest of the group mirrored this action at the top of the road, and later the two groups united and sat in peaceful protest until they were forcefully removed from the road.

The demonstration then moved back up the hill into the village, at which point some of the children began to throw stones towards the blockade. The military responded by chasing the children up the hill and attempting to make arrests (although many of the children were under the age of 13, and therefore not legally adults in the eyes of the Israeli courts).

Some sound bombs and tear gas canisters were thrown at this point, but the soldiers did not shoot tear gas projectiles until much later on in the demonstration- perhaps due to the presence of media crew from the BBC.

Both soldiers and jeeps then made their way to the centre of the village, where children stood around the soldiers chanting and singing. The soldiers then forcefully entered a house from which they attempted to block access to those protesting, and seized one young female demonstrator who they accused of stone-throwing. She was, however, quickly released when they realised she holds both Palestinian and American citizenship.

The soldiers later chased a teenager (presumably suspected of stone throwing) through the village and attempted to arrest him. Many of the Palestinians and several internationals successfully de-arrested him, but he had already been badly beaten by this point and was taken to hospital after falling unconscious.

Several attempted arrests were made, and one international was violently seized by the soldiers shortly after this, and was detained at Halamish settlement’s military base. The international was kept in a dark room and had his hands tied behind his back at all times, even when bread was thrown on the floor for him to eat. He was given no explanation for this treatment and was released without charge after 6 hours.

The protest continued, whereupon soldiers began firing tear gas projectiles both in an arc (the legal method) and directly at individuals (which is illegal according to both international and Israeli law). Several of the children suffered cuts and heavy bruising as a consequence, and many adults and children suffered extreme tear gas inhalation, although none was severely wounded.

The demonstration stopped for almost an hour when the jeeps and soldiers left the village, but continued when they entered once again and continued to fire both directly at protestors and into the villagers’ gardens, at which point large amounts of tear gas entered numerous houses, including the houses of those who were not taking part in the protest.

The demonstration ended at approximately 6:30pm, when the soldiers finally left the village after continuing in this vein for several hours. By this point there were over 150 participants.

Since January 2010, peaceful protestors have spent their Fridays attempting to reach the spring, which was confiscated along with almost half of the village’s arable land. Despite confirmation from the District Coordination Office that the spring is on Palestinian land, the villagers continue to be prevented from accessing the area.

An Israeli marksman at the Bil`in demo.

An Israeli marksman at the Bil`in demo. Photo credit Hamde Abu Rahma

Ni`lin

On Friday over 100 Palestinians attended noon prayer in the olive groves outside the village of Ni’lin. After the prayer finished at around 12:15, over 70 Palestinians accompanied by ten international and Israeli activists and two journalists marched toward the wall that cuts through the village’s land. As well as being against the illegal apartheid wall, this demonstration was in part a protest against the American pastor Terry Jones who claimed he was going to burn the Qur’an on 11 September. Demonstrators held their copies of the Qur’an towards the sky as they marched and chanted.

Upon reaching the apartheid wall, stones were symbolically thrown at the huge concrete structure by the youths for twenty minutes, before tear gas and sounds bombs were then fired over the wall by the soldiers for about minutes five minutes before they opened the gate and began chasing demonstrators back towards the village, firing tear gas all the way. One man received medical assistance for an injury sustained running to avoid being hit by tear gas canisters.

For some hours most demonstrators and soldiers stood on opposite sides of a small valley. Some youths attempted to sneak back towards the wall while tear gas and sound bombs were fired by the soldiers. Five gunshots were heard and blank cartridges were found which indicate rubber-coated steel bullet use, though no-one was hit. Another group of soldiers came towards the olive groves where the demonstration started, and fired dangerous low-flying tear gas close to the heads of Palestinians and international activists, forbidden even by the army’s own regulations.

Young children symbolically threw stones in the direction of the soldiers who responded with low-flying tear gas until they retreated. The demonstrators ended the demonstration at 3:15 PM. No arrests were made and injuries consisted of two sprained ankles endured running from the potentially lethal tear gas canisters.

Beit Ummar

Around 60 Palestinians were supported by about 15 international activists in the village of Beit Ummar on Saturday in a demonstration against the illegal annexation of land by the neighboring settlement of Karmei Sur. The demonstration took place on the road leading to the fence that surrounds the settlement. Protesters made their way towards the gate in the fence, but were stopped by a group of soldiers who blocked the road, firing and throwing both tear gas and sound grenades.

Three Palestinian demonstrators were detained, including one journalist, along with two internationals. At one point during the protest, soldiers brought the detained journalist back out through the gate and offered to let him go if all of the media would leave the village with him. All parties refused and he was taken back into custody.

One international activist was hit in the back with a tear gas canister as soldiers fired them directly at the group of civilians. Additionally, a Palestinian boy was injured in the same way when soldiers drove an army vehicle through one of the gates onto the village’s farmland, and proceeded to chase the demonstrators through the fields, continuing to fire tear gas at body level. One other international temporarily lost hearing in one ear when a soldier shot a sound grenade directly next to her head, and many suffered from inhaling large quantities of gas.

The demonstration continued for around an hour and a half before protesters were chased back into the village amidst a barrage of tear gas.

The detained international is still being held by Israeli forces 48 hours after his arrest.

Hebron

On Saturday, after stopping for several weeks due to the Islamic holy month of Ramadan, the regular Saturday protests against the illegal settlements in Hebron and the closure of Shuhada Street started again.

Palestinians and internationals gathered in Al Zajed in the centre of Hebron at 3 p.m. and made their way to the gate that closes off Shuhada Street by the Beit Romano settlement at the entrance to the old city, but from the very beginning soldiers and police blocked their passage.

The demonstrators chanted against the occupation and the settlements, and many were carrying posters illustrating the crippling difficulties the Hebron residents suffer under Israeli occupation. This week they were also commemorating the anniversary of the massacres in Sabra and Shatila Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon in 1982. After nearly an hour the protestors turned their backs on the soldiers and slowly made their way back through the old city, coming to another entrance to Shuhada Street, where once again the Israeli army had closed the way. After twenty minutes of singing and chanting the protestors moved back to the starting point of the demonstration.

Palestinian youth dodge tear gas in Bil`in.

Palestinian youth dodge tear gas in Bil`in. Photo credit: Hamde Abu Rahma