Friday’s demonstration in An Nabi Saleh saw an increase in violence and collective punishment from the Israeli military, as twenty-five demonstrators were injured, windows of cars and homes were intentionally shattered, and three were arrested. ISM volunteer Ellen Stark was shot at point blank range (4 meters) with a rubber bullet as she stood with medics, Popular Committee members and other internationals. ISM co-founder Huwaida Arraf was arrested while negotiating with the IOF to allow Ellen through the military line to get to the hospital. According to Ellen, “we were standing on Palestinian land, in support of the village who’s land has been confiscated but we weren’t even demonstrating yet. We were standing with medics who were also shot with tear gas.”
Ellen’s had to undergo surgery to remove the bullet, which was lodged between her ulna and radius of her right arm. Her wrist is broken as a result of the bullet impact. As of 12:00 pm Saturday, Palestine time, Huwaida has yet to be located in the Israeli prison system.
Over an hour before the demonstration began, soldiers took position on a hilltop near the house of an An Nabi Saleh Popular Committee member signaling to activists that the peaceful march would likely be cut short yet again by soldiers using crowd dispersal tactics such as tear gas and sound grenades. The demonstration was able to take it’s usual course, as IOF soldiers blocked the path of the activists, and began to surround them from multiple sides. Only ten minutes into the demonstration, the army began firing tear gas and rubber bullets at a small group of international, Israeli, and Palestinian activists only four meters away, injuring International Solidarity Movement volunteer, Ellen Stark. Omar Saleh Tamimi, Amjad Abed Alkhafeez Tamimi and International Solidarity Movement co-founder Huwaida Arraf were arrested as they asked Israeli military personnel to stop firing tear gas canisters and rubber bullets at Stark as she was helped to safety.
Israeli forces then entered the center of the village where they continued firing tear gas, sound grenades, and rubber bullets for several hours. Over twenty five were injured, including an 84-year old woman who suffered from tear gas inhalation after tear gas canisters were fired into her house, and three others who were shot with rubber bullets, including an Israeli activist; four remain hospitalized.
Later in the demonstration, soldiers began shooting rubber bullets through the windows of residents’ houses, shops, and cars, shattering their homes and livelihoods, as they used collective punishment to attempt to suppress these weekly demonstrations.
These incidents comes as the Israeli government intensifies repression of the unarmed, popular resistance to the occupation of the West Bank, illegal land confiscation by settlements such as Halamish, and construction of the illegal apartheid wall. Two weeks ago in An Nabi Saleh, 14-year-old Ehab Fadel Beir Ghouthi’s skull was fractured as a rubber bullet shot by the Israeli military, leaving him in a coma for several days. He remains in a hospital in Ramallah where he is recovering; his condition is stable and improving.
Today and every Friday since January, around 100 unarmed demonstrators leave the village center in an attempt to reach a spring which boarders land confiscated by Jewish settlers. The District Coordination Office has confirmed the spring is on Palestinian land but nearly a kilometer before reaching the spring, the demonstration is routinely met with dozens of soldiers armed with M16 assault rifles, tear gas, rubber bullets and stun grenades.
The Halamish Settlement has confiscated nearly half of An Nabi Saleh’s orchard and farmland since it was founded in 1977. According to village residents the settlement confiscates more land each year without consent or compensation of the landowners.
Demonstrations in An Nabi Saleh turned violent today as US citizen Ellen Stark, 20, was shot with a rubber bullet from less than 12 feet away. The rubber bullet became lodged in Stark’s arm, breaking it and requiring surgical care. Due to conditions at the medical center in Ramallah, the use of a flashlight from a mobile phone was required for lighting while the rubber bullet was removed from Stark’s arm. Her arm was broken as a result of this incident.
Stark was gathered with other activists and two medics, away from the demonstration grounds. An Israeli military jeep stopped in front of the group, shooting rubber bullets and tear gas canisters from dangerously close range.
Also injured was Alkhatib Mahmud Tamimi, 87, hit with a rubber bullet in the arm and Nariman Tamimi, hit with a gas canister. Later in the demonstration, 17-year-old Raaft Ahmad was shot above the eye with a rubber bullet and is currently hospitalized. Two weeks ago , the skull of Ehab Fadel Beir Ghouthi, 14, was fractured as a rubber bullet shot by the Israeli military lodged in his brain.
Eyewitness Robin Brown stated, “The soldiers started shooting from just three meters away. We did nothing to provoke the attack.” Brown aided Stark in receiving medical attention. Three others in Stark’s group were detained.
“We weren’t even demonstrating yet. We were standing with medics who were also shot with tear gas,” Stark stated from the hospital in Ramallah.
Every Friday since January, unarmed protesters have attempted to reach a spring on An Nabi Saleh land. Recognized as Palestinian land by the District Coordinating Office, each week before reaching the spring, demonstrators have been met with a shower of rubber bullets and gas canisters fired on them by Israeli military forces. Nearly half of An Nabi Saleh’s orchard and farmland have been confiscated by the Halamish Settlement since it was created in 1977. An Nabi Saleh loses more land each year to Halamish for settlement development.
This incident comes as Israel has intesified efforts to suppress the Palestinian non-violence movement and the demonstrations held against settler land encroachment and the barrier wall. Earlier this week, notices were posted by Israeli military officers in the middle of the night in the villages of Bil’in and Nil’in declaring demonstration areas as closed military zones. Bil’in and Nil’in have gained international attention for their weekly Friday demonstrations.
Palestinian and international protesters joined half a dozen demonstrations across the occupied West Bank on Friday afternoon, in the first reaction to Israel`s declaration of two villages as `closed military zones` last week.
An American citizen was seriously injured after being struck in the arm by Israeli fire in Nabi Saleh, near Ramallah, onlookers said.
Her colleagues from the International Solidarity Movement later identified her as Ellen Stark. An ISM statement said she was `shot from less than four meters away with a rubber bullet, which lodged in her left arm, breaking her wrist.`
She was evacuated for medical attention by the Red Crescent, an Israeli military spokesman said. He described the woman`s injuries as light, and said they were caused by the use of riot-dispersal means. He said the injury came during `the violent and illegal riot near Dir Nizam, during which rocks were hurled toward security forces.`
Stark told ISM they were `standing on Palestinian land, in support of the village who’s land has been confiscated but we weren’t even demonstrating yet. We were standing with medics who were also shot with tear gas.`
Two clash sites were reported in the village, one at the entrance and a second near the illegal Israeli settlement of Hallamish. Witnesses said dozens of young men from nearby villages arrived and threw rocks at soldiers and the military tower at the entrance to the town. Locals said forces had to call reserve units in from the settlement, and fired tear-gas canisters and rubber-coated bullets at both locations.
During the protest, Palestinian journalist Deif Allah At-Tamimi sustained wounds in the head, while Omer At-Tamimi, 25, Amjad Abed Al-Hafith At-Tamimi, 21, and an American citizen were detained, locals said. The army spokesman confirmed that three people were being held for security questioning in the same area.
According to the ISM, Omar Saleh Tamimi, Amjad Abed Alkhafeez Tamimi and ISM co-founder Huwaida Arraf were arrested `as they asked Israeli military personnel to stop firing tear gas canisters and rubber bullets at Stark as she was helped to safety.`
The organization identified Alkhatib Mahmud Tamimi, 87, and Nariman Tamimi, mother of four, as two of the injured who were treated on site, and 17-year-old Raaft Ahmad, who the statement said was hospitalized after being shot above the eye with a rubber-coated bullet.
Locals corroborated the injury of Raaft, who was evacuated to the Ramallah Government Hospital.
Witnesses said the windowpanes of several homes in the area were shattered by rubber-coated bullets, reportedly fired at random at the homes. Locals said the house of Abed Ar-Rahman At-Tamimi suffered severe damage.
Eleven kilometers southwest in Budrus, two unidentified persons who demonstrators said were photojournalists were briefly detained. Later, protesters said negotiations with soldiers on the scene secured their release.
The army confirmed that two people were detained and released soon after, but had no comment on how their release was secured. They were originally detained for throwing rocks, the army official said, and there was no indication they were journalists.
Locals identified the detained man as a correspondent and cameraman of Palestine TV, who was held forsix hours.
Clashes erupted in Budrus after demonstrators said a high-ranking village leader had also been detained, but the military denied that arrest. Initial reports identified the purported Palestinian detainee as the village mayor.
In Nil`in, a further three kilometers south along the route of Israel`s separation wall, protesters arrived at the site of the Israeli separation barrier despite the army`s insistence that no demonstration would be permitted. Israeli forces opened fire with tear gas at the protesters, but there were no reports of injury.
The army spokesman confirmed that forces used riot-dispersal means, describing the event as a violent and illegal riot. He said Palestinians threw rocks at Border Police guards stationed behind the barrier, which is still under construction.
In Bil`in, four soldiers entered the area between the barrier and village, firing tear gas and stun grenades, protesters said. The invasion came just after Israeli forces announced that demonstrators had three minutes to depart the scene. Protesters left shortly thereafter.
Secretary-General of the Palestinian National Initiative and former PLC member Mustafa Al-Barghuthi, as well as Palestinian Liberation Front politburo member Hesham Abu Raya both joined in the protest, condemning the Israeli decision to declare the area a closed military zone.
`Barring Palestinian villagers from their land is an illegitimate move, and the declaration of a closed military zone is an illegal act of occupation which we will retain the right to resist,` Barghouthi told protesters.
In Ma`asara, near Bethlehem, an anti-wall demonstration ended peacefully, according to organizers.
The afternoon of demonstrations came days after the Israeli military declared Nil`in and Bil`in, two strongholds of the anti-wall movement, closed military zones. The designation banned entry between 8am and 8pm each Friday for a six-month period.
The announcement was made amid one of the most violent weeks recorded in the West Bank in the past few years, according to a UN report released Friday. Some 221 Palestinians and 17 members of the Israeli security forces were wounded in several demonstrations and clashes, the large majority of which took place in East Jerusalem and its vicinity.
The week`s number of Palestinian injuries is the highest recorded in a week since the UN Office for Humanitarian Affairs, which issued the report, began recording casualties in 2005. None of the clashes, however, resulted in fatalities.