3 nights of violence and military repression in Nabi Saleh

28 July 2011: Popular Struggle Coordination Committee

Settlers and the military have violently attacked the village of Nabi Saleh three times in the past week, burning fields, shooting live ammunition and raiding houses in the village.

Following a fire that burned through fields belonging to residents of Nabi Saleh near the Jewish-only settlement of Halamish on the afternoon of Monday the 25th, armed settlers blocked the adjacent main road, using violence to prevent the passage of Palestinian cars.

A family of four was viciously attacked, causing injury to an old woman and a 19 year-old woman, who went into shock.

video by Sabarna Press

As Palestinians started gathering, Israeli soldiers who were present at the scene reacted by trying to push them away and back to the village instead of removing the settlers, eventually invading the village. The soldiers shot immense astounding of tear-gas, rubber-coated bullets and live ammunition at houses and people in the village, luckily causing no injuries. The incursion finally ended at 11 PM when the soldiers left.

The following day, Tuesday the 26th, at roughly 2 in the afternoon, settlers tired to set fire to an olive grove belonging to a farmer from Nabi Saleh. As youth from the village noticed the settlers and quickly descended from the hilltop village to stop the fire, armed settlers open fire on them from automatic assault rifles.

The army, in turn, then staged another incursion into the village – the second in two days – again using immense amounts of tear-gas and live ammunition. Armored military vehicles went in and out of Nabi Saleh for no foreseeable reason. As the sun started setting over the village, soldiers took over a house in the center of the village. One of the tear-gas projectiles shot by the soldiers shattered a window in one of the village’s houses and set fire to the mattresses it landed on.

Clashes between soldiers and local youth continued sporadicly until the soldiers left shortly after 9 PM.

No disturbances were recorded on Wednesday, until the Israeli army staged a night raid on the village at 1:30 in the AM of Thursday the 28th. The soldiers raided and searched the houses of imprisoned village leaders Bassem and Naji Tamimi, as well as that of Mahmoud Tamimi without showing a search warrant. While in Mahmoud Tamimi’s house, the force’s commander threatened him that raids will be held nightly until “troubles” in the village cease and desist. Clashes, again involving the use of live ammunition by the army continued through the night, until the soldiers left shortly before sun rise.

Late in 2009, settlers began gradually taking over Ein al-Qaws (the Arch Spring), which personally belongs to Bashir Tamimi, the head of the Nabi Saleh village council. The settlers, abetted by the army, erected a shed over the spring, renamed it Maayan Meir, after a late settler, and began driving away Palestinians who came to use the spring by force – at times throwing stones or even pointing guns at them, threatening to shoot.

While residents of Nabi Saleh have already endured decades of continuous land grab and expulsion to allow for the ever continuing expansion of the Halamish settlement, the takeover of the spring served as the last straw that lead to the beginning of the village’s grassroots protest campaign of weekly demonstrations in demand for the return of their lands.

While the model of regularly held protests around the construction of Israel’s Separation Barrier became a common one in recent years, the protests in Nabi Saleh mark a significant break from that tradition, in that protest there is entirely unrelated to the Barrier. This expansion of the popular resistance model symbolizes the growing support the model enjoys among Palestinians, and the growing positive discourse around it across the Palestinian political spectrum.

Protest in the tiny village enjoys the regular support of International and Israeli activists, as well as that of Palestinians from the surrounding areas. Demonstrations in Nabi Saleh are also unique in the level of women participation in them, and the role they hold in all their aspects, including organizing. Such participation, which often also includes the participation of children mirrors the village’s commitment to a truly popular grassroots mobilization, encompassing all segments of the community.

The Israeli military’s response to the protests has been especially brutal and includes regularly laying complete siege on village every Friday, accompanied by the declaration of the entire village, including the built up area, as a closed military zone. Prior and during the demonstrations themselves, the army often completely occupies the village, in effect enforcing an undeclared curfew of sort. Military nighttime raids and arrest operations are also a common tactic in the army’s strategy of intimidation, often targeting minors.

In order to prevent the villagers and their supporters from exercising their fundamental right to demonstrate and march to their lands, soldiers regularly use disproportional force against the unarmed protesters. The means utilized by the army to hinder demonstrations include, but are not limited to, the use of tear-gas projectiles, banned high-velocity tear-gas projectiles, rubber-coated bullets and, at times, even live ammunition.

The use of such practices have already caused countless injuries, several of them serious, including those of children – the most serious of which is that of 14 year-old Ehab Barghouthi, who was shot in the head with a rubber-coated bullet from short range on March 5th, 2010 and laid comatose in the hospital for three weeks.

In complete disregard to the army’s own open fire regulations, soldiers often shoot tear-gas projectiles directly at groups of protesters or individuals and rubber bullets are indiscriminately shot at protesters from short distances. The army has also resumed using high velocity tear-gas projectiles in Nabi Saleh, despite the fact that they have declared banned for use after causing the death of Bassem Abu Rahmah in Bil’in in April 2009, and the critical injury of American protester Tristan Anderson in Ni’ilin in March of the same year.

Tear-gas, as well as a foul liquid called “The Skunk”, which is shot from a water cannon, is often used inside the built up area of the village, or even directly pointed into houses, in a way that allows no refuge for the uninvolved residents of the village, including children and the elderly. The interior of at least one house caught fire and was severely damaged after soldiers shot a tear-gas projectile through its windows.

Since December 2009, when protest in the village was sparked, hundreds of demonstration-related injuries caused by disproportionate military violence have been recorded in Nabi Saleh.

Between January 2010 and June 2011, the Israeli Army has carried 76 arrests of people detained for 24 hours or more on suspicions related to protest in the village of Nabi Saleh, including those of women and of children as young as 11 years old. Of the 76, 18 were minors. Dozens more were detained for shorter periods.