South Betlehem Region Unites to Demonstrate On Route 60

28 April 2007

Yesterday, over a hundred Palestinians from the villages of Beit Fag’ar, Um Salamuna, Wadi An-Nis, Al- Masara, Al-Khadr, and Beit Ommar, accompanied by Israeli and international activists, united on land near the Efrat settlement and attempted to block Route 60, the main north-south highway from Hebron up through Jerusalem to the northern West Bank. Though the high-spirited demonstrators were prevented by an enormous show of force by the Israeli Occupation Forces from blocking the highway, their message was seen, and heard, loud and clear. Demonstrators held up banners and signs in Hebrew, Arabic and English protesting the theft of their land by the Israeli government for the construction of the Annexation Barrier and the expansion of settlements. Chants of, “No, No, to the Wall” and “No, No to the Occupation”, in Arabic and English and, at one point in Hebrew, “soldiers, go home!” were heard by passersby.

At first, the Israeli Occupation Forces attempted to prevent the demonstration from getting to Route 60 , but they were thwarted when a bus from Beit Ommar, organized by the Popular Committee, arrived with nearly 30 Palestinians. The demonstrators reached the highway but were forced by over 50 soldiers and police onto the field beside the road. There were over 12 jeeps and police vehicles on hand, with at least 7 more stationed at Gush Etzion, just down the road. The IOF become quite helpful when they blocked traffic on the highway for a short time and drew the desired attention to the demonstration. However, they quickly became violent, first attacking an old man from Beit Ommar. He was caught on the highway side of a small barrier and was unable to climb over the barrier into the nearby field as the other demonstrators had done. The soldiers were clearly unconcerned by his physical limitations and began pushing him violently into the barrier until two other demonstrators lifted him up and over the metal guard. The IOF also pushed and hit members of the press and attempted to prevent them from documenting their aggressive acts towards the demonstrators.
When in the field, a member of the Popular Committee of Beit Ommar climbed a concrete structure and did a beautiful call to prayer. After the prayer, leaders from the various communities spoke not only about the devastation the Annexation Barrier will cause to their livelihoods, but also the need for the Palestinians of the area to have a united front against the Israeli Occupation. After the construction of the Barrier in Um Salamuna, Wad an-Nis, and Al-Masara, it will move to the villages of Migdal Oz, Beit Fag’ar, and Beit Ommar. These villages have already begun meeting to plan their united fight against the theft of their lands.