Report from Bil’in: ‘soldiers showed no discrimination with their firing, shooting directly at the faces of the protestors’23/04/2010
Source : Mondoweiss
Hamde Abu Rahma sends this report on the latest protest in Bil’in.
Today’s demonstration marked the culminating event in the Fifth Bil’in International Conference for Palestinian Popular Resistance, which began on Wednesday, April 21 with a full line-up of speakers including politicians, leaders of Popular Committees, Israeli activists, and international solidarity activists. The conference continued through Thursday and Friday. After the final conference session on Friday morning, in which workshop groups reported on their conclusions in preparation for the conference statement, the conference participants gathered with scores of other Israeli, international, and Palestinians waiting at the mosque for the weekly demonstration.
Today’s demonstration was larger than normal in size, and lasted an especially long period of time. Serious injuries were sustained during the demonstration, and several were arrested. Present at the demonstration were local political figures, including Mustafa Barghouti, and international solidarity leaders such as Luisa Morgantini.
At 1:30pm the crowd of demonstrators processed to the site of the Wall, carrying posters and flags, and were immediately met by soldiers, sound grenades, and smoke bombs. Protestors encountered a line of soldiers who were hiding; these soldiers fired a wall of gas at the protestors in order to force the demonstrators into a second line of soldiers who were waiting to make arrests. Demonstrators reported that soldiers showed no discrimination with their firing, shooting directly at the faces of the protestors, and no discrimination in their arrests, trying to arrest even journalists.
Several serious injuries were sustained. Imad Rizka, approximately 37 years of age, from Yaffa, was shot in the forehead with a tear gas canister. He was taken away immediately to Ramallah Hospital by ambulance. His condition is unknown at the time of writing. Rizka is well-known in Bil’in, as he comes to the village every Friday to demonstrate.
Soldiers fired a great deal of tear gas from both sides of the fence. Demonstrators were forced to retreat, but among those who remained, several were arrested. Soldiers crossed the fence and advanced well into the demonstrators’ territory, grabbing five demonstrators. Those arrested were a Palestinian journalist Muheeb Barghouti; an Israeli journalist, an elderly Palestinian man named Abu Sadi; Israeli activist Tali Shapiro; and two internationals from Liverpool, England, who were visiting Bil’in as part of a twin cities partnership. The soldiers took them away in between firing rounds of tear gas to drive the protestors back.
Additional injuries are as follows:
One demonstrator from Italy, struck in the back by a tear gas canister; an Italian demonstrator who was shot in the arm with a new type of weapon; an Israeli activist; Um Samarra, 45, from Bil’in, who was hit in the leg by a tear gas canister; Haitham al-Khatib, cameraman, who was slightly injured; a Palestinian woman from Bethlehem who sustained a leg injury; and a Palestinian journalist named Abbas al-Momni.
Today’s protestors showed great tenacity in the face of tear gas, injuries, and arrests, and an especially large number of demonstrators remained at the fence, facing the soldiers. The demonstration lasted an especially long period of time, as demonstrators refused to completely leave the area, and returned several times during lulls between waves of tear gas.
Update from the Popular Struggle Coordination Committee:
Emad Rezqa was hit in the forehead by an aluminum tear gas projectile shot directly at him by Israeli soldiers during the weekly anti-Wall demonstration in Bil’in earlier today. He suffered a fractured skull and brain hemorrhage. Rezqa is currently hospitalized at the Hadassa Ein Karem hospital in Jerusalem.
The demonstration Rezqa was injured in concluded the three-day International Bil’in Conference on Popular Struggle, and was attended by hundreds of people. Five demonstrators were arrested during the protest.
The march, which commenced at the village’s mosque after the midday prayer, was attacked with tear gas some 30 seconds after reaching the gate in the Wall, despite the fact that it was entirely peaceful. The gas forced most of the participants to retreat back towards the village, but a smaller group managed to stay by the gate, chanting and shouting slogans.
A few minutes after, a group of soldiers began firing a second round of tear gas projectiles, this time directly at the demonstrators from a distance of about 30 meters. Rezqa was hit and quickly evacuated to the Ramallah hospital with blood gushing from his forehead. He was transferred to the Hadassa Ein Karem hospital after being x-rayed and diagnosed as suffering a broken skull.
Following Rezqa’s injury, soldiers invaded Bil’in through the gate in the Wall and arrested four protesters who were staging a sit-in some hundred meters away from the Wall, as well as a journalist who was next to them.
Another demonstrator was similarly injured today during a demonstration in the village of Nabi Saleh. The protester was hit in the head with a tear gas projectile shot directly at him after the Army invaded the village even before the demonstration began.
In Ni’ilin, roughly 300 people demonstrated in solidarity with the villages political prisoners. The demonstration was attended by two PLC members from the Change and Reform party – Mahmoud Ramahi and Fadhel Saleh, who joined the protest today following Ramahi’s statement in support of the popular struggle last Wednesday during the Bil’in conference.
Ramahi and Slaeh’s participation is yet another sign of the recent expansion of the popular struggle and the momentum the movement is gaining in the Palestinian street.