By Marshall Pinkerton and Alma Reventos
18 August | International Solidarity Movement, West Bank
On Friday, August 17, 5 were injured and 8 arrested during the weekly protest in Kufr Qaddoum. Israeli soldiers fired tear-gas canisters, rubber-coated steel bullets, and beat protesters with wooden sticks. The village experienced an unprecedented amount of violence during the peaceful demonstration as the village was surounded and invaded by over 100 Israeli occupation forces, leading to several broken arms, the arrests of participants, including 6 journalists, and the asphyxiation of a 60 year-old bystander.
Those arriving from outside Kufr Qaddoum were forced to travel around flying checkpoints, posted along the main roads used to reach the village, which would prevent them from their right to participate in the democratic protest.
“Something felt strange about this morning,” Morad Shtayi, Popular Struggle Coordination Committee representative for Kufr Qaddoum said.
Before the demonstration at 11:30 a.m., Shtayi and several other men heard that 14 soldiers had entered houses under construction from the east, where the protest was due to take place.
“We began shouting at the soldiers until they left,” he says.
The demonstration began per usual at 1:15 p.m., with protesters marching down the road leading to Nablus. An Israeli bulldozer was present on the road, with over 30 border police, police, and soldiers standing on the hill to the North. After 15 minutes, Israeli forces descended on the village from the North, firing tear gas and rubber-coated steel bullets. Soldiers also began climbing up the valley from the south, followed by several military jeeps and the bulldozer.
“Protesters fled into the village to seek safety, as they faced tear gas canisters and rubber-coated steel bullets shot from distances of less than 10 meters,” solidarity activist Alma Reventos recounts.
Shtayi said witnesses reported soldiers firing live ammunition in the air as they entered the village in search of protesters.
Two Palestinians were arrested by border police, Qassam Aahi, 17, and Abdallah Awni. Israeli forces also arrested 6 Palestinian journalists for reporting on the demonstration; Jaafar Shtayi (Associated Free Press), Nidal Shtayi (Chinese Press), Faris Faris (Palestine Today), Bakir Abd al-Haq (TV Nablus), Odai Qudoomi (B’tselem), and Noah Qudoomi (Alfajir Tulkarem). Among the 6 journalists arrested, 2 were beaten, with Jaafar Shtayi suffering a broken arm. The journalists were released several hours later under the condition that they face imprisonment if they attempt to document the demonstrations in Kufr Qaddoum again.
In addition to the arrests, 2 Palestinians were beaten and a 60-year-old woman fell unconscious after border police repeatedly fired tear-gas inside the village. Rani Suliman Ali, 30, had his arm broken and was kept for a period from seeking medical treatment by Israeli checkpoints outside of the village. Mohannad Shtaiw, was beaten on the back with wooden sticks, and taken to Qalqiliya hospital. Israeli forces finally left the village at 3:30 p.m. with those arrested.
The purpose of the weekly demonstration in Kufr Qaddoum focuses on the closure of the main road that connects the village with Nablus. The road, which passes alongside the nearby illegal Israeli settlement of Kedumim, was closed to Palestinian access. As a result, the journey to Nablus has increased from 15 minutes to 40 minutes. This has resulted in hardships because many residents travel daily to Nablus for work, studies, or health care. Kufr Qaddoum has also lost 4000 dunums of land to the 5 illegal Israeli settlements that surround the village. Farmers seeking to reach their lands face threats, attacks, and arrests. Some of the Palestinian-owned agricultural lands have been declared ‘closed military zones’, and Israeli settlers regularly burn them. This demonstration follows 2 weeks in which several young men were arrested from Kufr Qaddoum during night raids by Israeli forces.
Marshall Pinkerton and Alma Reventos are volunteers with the International Solidarity Movement (names have been changed).
Video and pictures taken from www.facebook.com/AlMasira.KufurKaddom