by Popular Struggle Coordination Committee: 21.01.2012
video by Israel Puterman
40 days after the killing of protester Mustafa Tamimi in Nabi Saleh, the village holds a march of commemoration. The army in response continues to shoot tear-gas canisters directly at protesters, against its own open-fire regulations. A medic was injured by two canisters shot directly at him.
Six weeks after the killing of Mustafa Tamimi by a tear-gas canister shot directly at him from close range, the village devotes weekly protest to his commemoration. The village of Nabi Saleh has been protesting for the past two years against the appropriation of the village’s spring by the neighboring settlement of Halamish. This week, protesters decided to march towards the village hilltops, overlooking the spring. Already as they were climbing the first hilltop, the peaceful demonstrators were met by a volley of tear-gas canisters. However, as wind carried most of the tear-gas back towards the soldiers, protesters were able to continue marching towards the adjacent village of Dir Nidham, which lands have also been taken over by Halamish settlers.
At this stage Israeli soldiers managed to climb up the next hilltop, which put them in a position to shoot tear-gas canisters directly at protesters. This manner of targeted shooting is in complete breach of the army’s own open fire regulations and already caused the death and injury of several protesters, including Mustafa Tamimi. One medic was injured during this assault after two consecutive tear-gas canisters hit him in the thigh. He was evacuated by fellow medics, who rushed to help him and carried him back towards the village. Soon after this, other demonstrators also made their way back to the village, but even then the Israeli soldiers continued shooting large amounts of tear-gas at them. Tear gas was also shot in the village’s populated areas, including into houses, as the soldiers entered the village. Several youth threw stones at the army jeeps to ward off this incursion. The demonstration was maintained for a few hours, with the army occasionally using the “skunk”, a water cannon spraying foul-smelling liquid, rubber coated bullets and a appliance which launches dozens of tear-gas canisters simultaneously.
Late in 2009, settlers began gradually taking over Ein al-Qaws (the Bow Spring), which rests on lands belonging 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.
Protest in the tiny village enjoys the regular support of Palestinians from surrounding areas, as well as that of Israeli and international activists. 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 reflects the village’s commitment to a truly popular grassroots mobilization, encompassing all segments of the community.
The response of the Israeli military 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. 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.
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.