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Nabi Saleh endures despite military presence

26 July 2011 | International Solidarity Movement, West Bank

At 10 a.m. we arrived at  Nabi Saleh to interview the neighbors about what had happened the night before. We found out on the internet that something was going on, thanks to Tamimi Press, a Facebook page created by a young designer who lives in the village. Walking down the main road our eyes and nose got irritated. We could still breathe the  tear gas shot by Israel’s occupation forces throughout the night.

According to the people we interview this is constant; what happened last night is nothing exceptional. The neighbors told us as follows:

Around 6 p.m. a group of settlers tried to enter the village of  Nabi Saleh. Seemingly, the reason was a fire started on the lands at the border of the the illegal settlement of  Halamish. To be precise the fire was sparked on the side of the new extension where settlers are just now occupying with prefabricated units.

For a couple of hours the youngsters from the village tried to avoid  entering through the main street, until the army came. This resulted in  various neighborhood vehicles being damaged by the stones thrown by the settlers. At that point, soldiers were blocking the roads.

At 8.30 p.m. more than 50 soldiers entered the village and started shooting tear gas and sound bombs. Then an officer started to shoot real bullets shouting at his subordinates to do the same.

At that moment the village was completely full of gas and 3 people had been hurt by the impact and the burns from the bullets. Among them were two women from the same family, whose house had been shot at directly.

Around midnight the settlers came back to try and burn down the olive trees planted at the entrance of the village, yet the young Palestinians were able to stop them. The settlers marched away, protected by the army.

Nobody was arrested that night. The neighbors gave us a summary of the situation in Nabi Saleh since the protests began. Until now about 75 people out of its 500 residents have  been arrested, constituting one sixth of the village. 130 people have been hurt on different levels and right now 21 youngsters are in jail, among them children between 10 and 14 years old.

The culminating moment in this village’s resistance against the theft of its land and water was precisely on December 9 2009 when the villagers decided to get organized against the expansion of the Halamish settlement, also known as Neve Tzuf. This settlement dates officially back to 1977, when various settlers occupied a fortress left by the British Mandate, abandoned since 1940.

Since then, the owners of the lands have suffered a systematic plunder because of the various expansions of the settlement, and they have tried to get the lands back through legal action. They got the recognition of the Supreme Court in 2008, meaning that the settlers cannot trespass the land and the army has to stop them from trespassing. Subsequently the army declared the land military zone, turning the ruling into useless paper.

Another claim is about water. It is controlled by the Israeli firm Mekorot and the principal line passes close to the Halamish settlement. The settlers totally control the supply through a valve situated in the illegal colony.

Since protests have begun, there has been a change in the occupation forces protecting the settlers, now there are special riot police squads settled in the colony and in a base located on its side.

The repression constantly suffered by the villagers is very violent, that’s why the presence of international is considered especially necessary to show in our countries what is happening in Nabi Saleh and in Palesine in general.