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19 weeks strong: Kufr Qaddoum marches forward despite heavy tear gas and bullets

by Rana H.

5 November 2011 | International Solidarity Movement, West Bank

The Israeli army assaulted peaceful protesters in Kufr Qaddoum with tear gas, rubber coated steel bullets, and sound bombs, injuring two and causing severe tear gas suffocation for three families, including five children, and two protesters, including an International Solidarity Movement activist.

Approximately 250 protesters were present, including children, and international and Israeli activists.

One Palestinian broke his foot when a high-velocity tear gas canister hit him, and is currently being transferred to Jordan for special treatment. Another protester was injured when a tear gas canister hit him in the hand. Three families were forced to evacuate their homes when soldiers fired tear gas in between their homes. Five children were witnessed crying and running out of their homes and away from the approaching soldiers. Two protesters were treated with oxygen after severe tear gas inhalation, including a female ISM activist who fell unconscious.

Children lead the protest holding posters praising Mahmoud Abbas and UNESCO, calling Avigdor Lieberman a “racist” and “terrorist.” As the march progressed to where soldiers were stationed, most of the children dispersed and protesters stopped in front of the barbed wire marking, closing the street about 15 metres from the soldiers. The Israeli commander approached and spoke to some of the Palestinians, attempting to set rules but demonstrators refused to recognize these rules without Israel first acknowledging that the road is their legal right to use.

Soon after, soldiers fired several rounds of tear gas. They continued to shoot tear gas in bunches for the next hour. For the first hour, the progression kept returning after each round of gas. The soldiers then began to advance on the road into the village. They began to fire rubber coated steel bullets and sound bombs as well as tear gas. At this point the three families evacuated their homes.

Protesters continued to come back at them despite the dangerous situation, and eventually the soldiers left the street and the demonstration ended.

The Palestinian-led demonstration has occurred weekly in Kufr Qaddoum for the past 19 weeks. The village was involved in a legal battle for six years concerning the closure of their main road because it runs parallel to the illegal Israeli settlement of Qadumim. During this time there were no protests. The Israeli court finally ruled in their favour, but the road was then closed because it is not “suitable” or “safe” for travel. 5 months ago the protests resumed. Since the road has been closed, Kufr Qaddoum residents must take an indirect road to reach Nablus, which increases transportation from 15 minutes to 40 minutes. This increase has resulted in hardships, particularly because there is no hospital in the village and residents must drive to Nablus for care, and due to the increased price of transport for the many students who study in Nablus.

Rana H. is an activist with International Solidarity Movement.