by Alistair George
30 September 2011 | International Solidarity Movement, West Bank
Israeli military forces mounted an aggressive incursion into the centre of Kufr Qaddum today, in response to the weekly demonstration against the closure of the main road linking the village to the nearby city of Nablus, in the North of the West Bank. The Israeli military fired tear gas canisters directly into streets crowded with villagers and international observers, causing many to suffer from severe gas inhalation.
Murad Shttaiwi, spokesman of the demonstrations, confirmed that this was the furthest that the Israeli military had entered into the village since the weekly protests began on 1 July 2011. He also claimed that after the protest in Kufr Qaddum on Friday 23 September 2011, fires caused by Israeli military tear gas canisters burned nearly 200 olives trees.
After midday prayers today around 250 villagers, marched to the edge of Kufr Qaddum where they burned an effigy of Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and called for the road to be re-opened. In response, the Israeli military deployed military vehicles and fired tear gas to drive the protesters back into the village, whilst Palestinian youths threw stones.
The main road linking Kufr Qaddum to Nablus passes by Qadumim, an illegal Israeli settlement, and was closed by the Israeli military in 2003 during the Second Intifada. The distance from Kufr Qaddum to Nablus is 13km on the main road; however, villagers are now forced to take an alternative route which is 26km long. The road remains closed to the emergency services and, according to Murad Shttaiwi, three people have died since 2003 because the ambulances were forced to take seriously ill villagers via the longer route to Nablus.
A recent report published by the Palestinian Ministry of National Economy estimated that restrictions on movement imposed by Israeli forces costs the Palestinian economy $184m a year.
Murad Shttaiwi says that the village has suffered greatly for many years because of the closure of the road. He is also concerned about the upcoming olive harvest in Kurf Qaddum;
“Last year the military only allowed us to collect olives for one or two days. On the days that we couldn’t go, the settlers came and stole the olives.”
Alistair George is an activist with International Solidarity Movement (name has been changed).