8 and 9 October 2010 | ISM Media
On Friday afternoon, around 50 protesters, including many international and Israeli activists, gathered in the village of Al-Ma’sara, near Bethlehem, to demonstrate against the theft of village land by the Gush Etzion settlement block. Soldiers were waiting the demonstrators at the exit of the village, to prevent them from getting too close to settlement. After they showed a map indicating that it was a closed military zone, soldiers started to throw sound grenades.
Many Israeli activists talked to the soldiers, trying to explain the reasons on the Palestinians.
The soldiers left the area just after a herd of sheep passed by.
The village of Al Ma’asara has been holding weekly non-violent demonstrations since November 2006.
On the first Friday demonstration of the olive harvest, two journalists were injured and dozens suffered from tear gas and rubber bullets in Bil’in.
The Bil’in Popular Committee Against the Wall and Settlements organized the weekly demonstration against the illegal apartheid wall under a banner saying “We stay here like the roots of the olive trees”. Their main focus was to assert the farmers’ right to reach their own lands and pick up their olives.
Many international solidarity groups, Israeli peace activists and Palestinians from other towns participated. The demonstration began after midday prayer and lasted two hours. Demonstrators held the Palestinian flag as well as posters demanding the release of Bil’in political prisoners. They chanted slogans against the wall and the settlements in Sheikh Jarrah and Silwan.
Someone was carrying a ladder and a bucket hoping to use them once they would get to their land. Unfortunately the access to their legally owned lands was once again denied: as soon as the demonstrators reached the gate in the apartheid wall, the soldiers shot rubber coated steel bullets and tear gas.
The soldiers subsequently passed through the gate and unsuccessfully attempted to arrest the demonstrators. Two journalists were injured. Abas Al Momani was injured in the back by a tear gas canister. Haron Amaira suffered from extreme tear gas inhalation. Dozens of other demonstrators suffered from breathing tear gas poison.
An-Nabi Saleh got creative last Friday for their weekly demonstration; the children of the village were armed with paint in squirt guns and water balloons before the protesters marched down the main road to meet the army. The soldiers blocked the group from walking down the road that runs through the village, and were then met with chanting and paint on both the soldiers themselves and their jeep windshields. Around 70 demonstrators attended, accompanied by nearly 20 Israeli and international activists.
The demonstration was then driven back up the road into the village with tear gas and sound bombs, after which, the Israeli forces left the area. Once the young people of an-Nabi Saleh had built roadblocks to keep army jeeps from passing, the protest continued over the hills toward the village’s well, stolen by the neighboring settlement, Halamish. The theft of this spring and much of the agricultural land of an-Nabi Saleh is the main reason for the weekly demonstrations there.
After a while of soldiers firing tear gas directly at protestors on the exposed hill, Israeli forces drove the group back into the village again, amidst a volley of rubber-coated bullets and several rounds of live ammunition. The youth regrouped and began throwing stones at the soldiers on the main road in a symbolic act of resistance to the occupation, and the army responded with more shooting. The firing of rubber-coated bullets and tear gas continued throughout the village for some time, ending as the sun was setting.
None were arrested this week, but around ten were shot with rubber-coated bullets, including one young teen who was shot in the ear. No less than two of those shot were immediately hospitalized, with the ambulances delayed by their struggle to pass the army roadblocks. At least one older man was hit with a tear gas canister, and many suffered from extreme and debilitating tear gas inhalation.
While the demonstrators were gathering, a military jeep and many soldiers arrived, scaring the kids that were playing football in the street. Palestinians together with Israeli and international peace activists, marched around the small streets of the Old City chanting slogans against the illegal occupation.
Not only the locals witnessed the march, but also a group of international tourists that for a while had to face the hard reality of a city where Palestinians live under occupation.