10 people were injured by rubber-coated steel bullets and tear gas cannisters in today’s demonstration in An-Nabi Salih village, in the north Ramallah region, against the expansion of the illegal Halamish settlement on to village lands.
The storm clouds and cold temperatures did not deter demonstrators, as some 100 locals (approximately a fourth of the village), both male and female, were joined by 20 Israeli and international activists in the village square following the midday prayer. Protesters then marched towards the lands south of the village where stands Halamish settlement, built on the stolen lands of An-Nabi Salih, and where Israeli occupation forces awaited their arrival. Demonstrators chanted songs of protest and carried baby olive trees in the hopes of planting them on the seized land as a peaceful assertion of their rights to be there. These hopes were squashed as the first volleys of tear gas grenades were fired, causing protesters to disperse to the fields either side of the road. A barrage of tear gas, sound grenades and rubber-coated steel bullets were fired on demonstrators from soldiers positioned to the south and south-east of the village.
The demonstration quickly became an exercise in organized community resistance, as demonstrators created makeshift barricades on the roads, pre-empting an invasion of military jeeps to the village. Dumpsters wheeled down the road towards the soldiers served as an effective road block, and doubled as shelter to the volleys of tear gas, .22 caliber bullets and rubber-coated steel bullets whizzing past their heads. Several tires were positioned in the centre of the road and set ablaze, the black smoke it exuded mingling with that of the gas canisters landing amongst the protesters.
10 young local protesters were injured in the attack launched by Israeli occupation forces, including Omar Tamimi, hit 5 times by rubber-coated steel bullets, and Risat Tamimi, hit twice. 8 more were struck by rubber-coated steel or tear-gas grenades, fired from soldiers’ M-16 automatic weapons and causing severe injury when fired directly at people. Those injured were removed from the scene by Red Crescent medics.
Despite the overwhelming use of disproportionate brute force by the Israeli military, the village’s youth showed remarkable courage in what has become the weekly struggle to defend their village from violent occupying forces. Previous demonstrations in An-Nabi Salih have culminated in targeted military attacks on village children, tear gas fired in to homes from short range and violent arrests when Israeli soldiers entered the village. Demonstrators succeeded in keeping military forces at bay today, and preventing the possibility of arrest. The demonstration came to an end around 4pm as the soldiers appeared relinquish their positions near the village and retreat to the road that split Halamish and An Nabi Salih.
The weekly Friday demonstrations in An-Nabi Salih commenced in December 2009, in protest to the uprooting of hundreds of olive trees by settlers from Halamish settlement. Construction of Halamish settlement began on farmland belonging to An-Nabi Salih and neighbouring villages in 1977. Conflict between the settlement and villagers reawakened in the past month due to the settler’s attempt to re-annex An Nabi Salih land despite the December 2009 Israeli court case that ruled the property rights of the land to the An Nabi Salih residents. Despite the Israeli District Co-ordination Office’s promise to allow the village unrestricted passage to the land, farmers have been barred and violently assaulted when they attempted to access the land in question. An Nabi Salih’s resistance mirrors the ongoing resistance in Bi’lin, Ni’lin and the burgeoning popular struggle in Sheikh Jarrah, Iraq Burin, Burin and Al-Ma’asara.