On January 8, villagers from the Palestinian village of An Nabi Saleh (population approx 500), located in the north of the Ramallah district, held its third demonstration in three weeks against creeping settlement expansion and land confiscation by the illegal Israeli settlement of Hallamish (also known as Neve Tzuf). According to the residents of the village, since the settlement was established illegally on land belonging to An Nabi Saleh in 1977, there have been repeated attempts to expand the settlement. In 2009, the village successfully challenged, in the Israeli courts, the expansion of the settlement fence to land immediately alongside settler highway 465. In the past month, however, illegal settlers residing in Hallamish colony have attempted to re-annex the land alongside the highway, which now divides An Nabi Saleh’s land. In this period, the settlers have proceeded to build a shelter structure for the purpose of a memorial, on the land, which includes a fresh water spring used by An Nabi Saleh farmers and shepherds.
In response to the attempts by the Hallamish settlers to re-annex the land, An Nabi Saleh residents commenced non-violent demonstrations and actions to oppose the settlement expansion in December 2009. Prior to the demonstration on 8th of January, actions were also held on 1 January 2010 and 26 December 2009. These demonstrations included the replanting of olive trees in the area annexed by the illegal settlers.
Around 120 residents of An Nabi Saleh were joined by Israeli anti-occupation activists and internationals from the International Women’s Peace Service and the International Solidarity Movement in a non-violent demonstration, marching to the land which the Hallamish settlers have attempted to re-annex. During the course of the demonstration, the residents of An Nabi Saleh successfully blockaded 465, the illegal settler highway, for more than two hours. Mid-demonstration, one section of the non-violent demonstration also broke off from the highway and successful reached the land re-annexed by Hallamish, tearing down the illegally built settler structure.
Both sections of the non-violent demonstration, however, were met with force by the Israeli military who deployed more than 17 jeeps and at least two dozen soldiers to the area. During the course of the two hour demonstration, the Israeli military proceeded to fire up to 100 tear-gas canisters, as well as firing rubber-coated steel bullets and live ammunition at the un-armed demonstrators. More than 20 residents of the village were injured as a result, including three who were hospitalized. Those hospitalized, included two people injured by rubber bullets, and one teenage boy who received a head injury when he was struck in the head with a tear gas canister.
Many of the non-violent demonstrators were also injured by rocks which were thrown by illegal settlers from Hallamish from the hillside below the settlement and above the demonstration. One IWPS volunteer narrowly missed being hit by one of the rocks thrown by the settlers.
Despite a large presence, the Israeli military did little to stop the illegal settlers’ violent attack on the unarmed Palestinian demonstration. In one instance, when the Israeli military did attempt to prevent the illegal settlers from descending the hill in order to reach the non-violent Palestinian demonstration, the illegal settlers also attacked the soldiers. For several hours after the conclusion of the non-violent Palestinian demonstration, settler youth repeatedly threw rocks at passing Palestinian vehicles on the road below Hallamish colony. On 9 January, the day after the non-violent demonstration, residents of An Nabi Saleh informed IWPS volunteers that more 100 olive trees had been cut down and burnt by the Hallamish settlers on the land that belongs to the village, which the settlers were trying to re-annex.