Arrests, Violence and one small Victory - Weekend demonstrations during Yom Kippur in the West Bank

Al Ma'asara

Some thirty Palestinian, Israeli and international activists gathered this week in Ma'asara to protest against the Apartheid Wall. The small procession passed through the village, and was met by a gang of soldiers and border policemen at its outskirts. The soldiers declared the area was a closed military zone, and allowed the demonstrators a minute to leave.
One of the demonstrators started giving a speech about the anniversary to the Sabra and Shatila massacre, and the soldiers reacted by throwing stun grenades at people's feet. Two minutes later they started throwing tear gas as well. Demonstrators took a step back, then returned forward, and were met with more violence. Demonstrators put their hands up in the air, calling soldiers not to shoot at the non-violent demonstration, and to use the Jewish holiday of repentance to rethink their actions. This repeated itself for some twenty minutes, until the soldiers suddenly left. Demonstrators celebrated their small victory, and the demonstration was over



An Nabi Saleh

Around 60 people - Nabi Saleh residents, including many of the village's children and other Palestinians, Israeli and international supporters - participated in the weekly demonstration against the crippling Israeli occupation and the Halamish settlement. Israeli soldiers came to block the protesters, but in an outburst of civil disobedience the protesters broke the soldiers line, and after a while sat on the main road, despite of the soldier's pushes and shoves.

After much chantings the march went back. The deepening army incursion into the village was met with resistance by stone throwing. At one incident soldiers stationed in the village's center were warded off, throwing back stun grenades as they left the area. At another incident, soldiers grabbed one young Palestinian and beaten him until he could barely get up from the ground. Many protesters came by to protest and oppose this aggression.
Typically, long after the demo was over the army went back to the village, harrasing and threathening its residents.

Beit Ummar 

For the first demonstration since the Ramadan break, around 40 Palestinians, joined by a dozen international activists, marched again towards Karmei Tsur settlement, built on Beit Ommar land in the 1980's.  This week, the demonstration carried a more somber tone, as the participants were including a call for the 17 year-old son of Popular Committee member Ahmed Abu Maria to be released from prison.  He is being held pending trial and has a serious medical condition for which he was hospitalized this week.  A few participants carried signs in several languages stating "I am Yousef Abu Maria". 
Long before the demonstrators could make their demands clear, and indeed before they reached the fence cutting them off from their farmland, Israeli soldiers descended on the group and almost immediately began attacking the participants and arresting them.  One Palestinian organizer, Younes Arrar, was viciously arrested, dragged away in a choke-hold and held for over 20 minutes with his arm wrenched behind his back.  An international solidarity activist from Ireland was thrown to the ground, his head slammed down, as a soldier shouted at him in English "are you scared yet?"
Still, the demonstrators were persistent and the demonstration lasted for nearly two hours as Israeli soldiers fired tear gas directly at participants, in violation of their own laws; rubber-coated steel bullets and percussion grenades were also shot directly at participants.  A Palestinian teen and an international woman were both hit with tear gas canisters in their torsos fired from close distance.
In the end, two international solidarity activists, one from PSP and one from ISM were arrested, though the PSP activist was released on the scene (most likely because of her Israeli citizenship).  Three Palestinians, including an AP photographer, were also arrested.  All three were released later the same evening from the police station.
The demonstration occured on the holiest Jewish holiday, Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, when Jews are supposed to list the sins they have committed that year and ask those whom they have sinned against for forgiveness.  Beit Ommar residents are waiting...




As previous Fridays since 22 February 2005, the joint demonstration against the separation fence and occupation marched from the center of the village towards the route of the separation fence. About 20 international activists, 8 Israelis of the anarchists against the wall initiative and few dozens Bil'iners marched at noon with pictures of prisoners of the village.

We chanted along the march till we arrived at the gate of the route of the fence. The Most of the Israeli state force that was relatively small was located behind the concrete blocks not far from the gate. Few daring ones entered the route of the fence defying warning of the soldiers and hung on the electronic fence some placards and pictures of the prisoners arrested during the last year - part of the failed efforts to put end to the weekly demonstrations. On our way we could see the not so far away new separation fence that will replace part of the present one and will return soon to the villagers part of the robbed lands, as decided by the highest Israeli court more than two years ago.

After repeated warnings the soldiers started with the usual attack using mainly tear gas but added from time to time few shock grenades.

As the wind was friendly to us and the soldiers not too belligerent, many of the demonstrators remained near the fence, in spite of the frequent firing of tear gas and the advance of soldiers to our side of the fence.

This Friday the soldiers refrained from declaring the are closed military zone and did not try to arrest any one.


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