4th April 2014 | International Solidarity Movement | Ramallah, Occupied Palestine
This afternoon approximately 500 Palestinian, international and Israeli demonstrators gathered close to Ofer Prison in Ramallah to protest against the refusal of the Israeli state to release the fourth group of Palestinian prisoners. As part of the current round of talks between Fatah (the Palestinian government of the West Bank) and the Israeli government, a series of prisoner releases was promised by the state of Israel, and the fourth was due to be carried out by the end of March, the Israeli government has now refused to honor the final release.
The demonstration began at approximately 12pm, the protests’ aim was to march towards Ofer prison itself, but due to the large number of Israeli forces present, this was not possible. The demonstrators also twice attempted a prayer at the start of the protest, but were unable to due to the high level of aggression from Israeli forces.
As the demonstration was beginning a 53-year-old Palestinian was shot at several times through the window of his car as he was driving away from Israeli forces. One of these rubber-coated steel bullets struck him in the head. The rubber-coated steel bullet broke several bones around his eye, a piece of the bullet was unable to be immediately removed and so he required surgery.
The level of violence escalated from this point as Palestinian youth threw stones at the Israeli military, while they (the military) fired hundreds of tear gas canisters, rubber-coated steel bullets and live ammunition, injuring many demonstrators. At several points during the demonstration, Israeli forces fired tear gas canisters directly at protesters, both highly dangerous and in contravention to Israeli military procedure, which is shooting them up into an arch to lower the impacted velocity.
A full list of all those injured is currently not available, however at least 10 people were transferred by ambulance to a local hospital in Ramallah to seek medical treatment for their injuries and Red Crescent medics at the demonstration treated many others for varying wounds.
Below is a list of specific injuries that were confirmed both at the demonstration and from ISM activists at the local Ramallah hospital:
- A 21-year-old Palestinian activist was injured after being shot from extremely close range with a sponge-tipped projectile in the back.
- Two ISM activists were also both shot from extremely close range with sponge-tipped projectiles in their backs.
- A 20-year-old Palestinian was shot with a rubber-coated steel bullet in the head.
- A 48-year-old Palestinian journalist was shot with a rubber-coated steel bullet in the left shoulder.
- A Palestinian activist was shot with a rubber-coated steel bullet in the foot.
- A 20-year-old Palestinian was shot with two .22 live ammunition bullets in his foot and in his knee.
- A 30-year-old Palestinian was shot with .22 live ammunition in his right hand.
- Another Palestinian was shot with .22 live ammunition in his left foot; the bullet was unable to be removed.
- 36-years-old Palestinian was shot with two .22 live ammunition bullets, both in his left foot.
- A 31-year-old Palestinian was shot in the left leg with .22 live ammunition.
- A 36-year-old Palestinian was shot with .22 live ammunition in the left foot.
- Mohammed Yasin, a photojournalist from Bi’lin who was wearing a press vest, was shot in his face with a rubber-coated steel bullet and also shot in his stomach with a .22 live ammunition bullet. He remains in hospital in serious condition, as the bullet may have destroyed parts of his liver.
An ISMer who was present at Ofer had this to say: “The Israeli forces were really violent today. It was impossible to count the amount of tear gas canisters, rubber-coated steel bullets and live ammunition fired; it felt constant for several hours. It became clear many times during the protest that the soldiers were specifically aiming at people, they weren’t trying to ‘end’ the demo, they just wanted to injure as many people as possible. I just don’t understand how people can defend the Israeli state and its military when they use this much violence against unarmed protesters.”