Demonstrations, Repression Intensify in Betlehem District

9 February 2008

This Friday, international and Israeli activists joined residents outside Um Salamuna and Al-Khadr in two demonstrations against the construction of the Annexation Wall on their land. Beginning in Um Salamuna, demonstrators gathered near the entrances to Al Ma’asara and Um Salamuna and began to march down the street towards the construction site, near the Efrat settlement. They were quickly met by the Israeli military, who attacked demonstrators, grabbing and pushing participants as they attempted to march towards Route 60, the main road for both Palestinian and Israeli settler traffic in the southern West Bank.

Activists then made their way to the entrance of Al-Khadr, a village on the outskirts of Betlehem that will be totally devastated by the construction of The Wall, a bypass road and tunnel through their agricultural land. If finished, these Israeli apartheid structures will cut off the residents of Al-Khadr from 90% of their land. Hundreds of residents of Al-Kahdr and nearby towns gathered with Israeli and international supporters and attempted to march towards the construction site, also on Route 60. The Israeli Occupation Forces were there en masse and had laid a role of barbed wire across the street in an attempt to prevent the demonstration from reaching the road. As activists approached the the wire and began to move it, Israeli soldiers began firing tear gas and sound grenades into the crowd. One elderly man was injured and sent to the hospital when a sound grenade exploded near his head. The army also fired rubber-coated steel bullets into the crowd, forcing them to disperse momentarily. At least three children were also treated for injuries and others were treated for extensive gas inhalation.

The Palestine Solidarity Project and Israeli groups first began supporting demonstrations in Al-Khadr in the summer of 2006, when construction on the Annexation Wall began and will continue to support the Popular Committee of Al-Khadr in their renewed struggle against the theft and destruction of their land and livelihoods.