Dozens Injured in Demonstrations Around Betlehem District

22 February 2008

Today, as the residents of Bil’in commemorated their 3rd year of consecutive non-violent resistance to the Apartheid Wall, two other villages in the Betlehem courageously continued their struggles against the Wall as well. Residents of the South Betlehem villages gathered on the land of Um Salamuna along with their supporters and began marching towards a barbed-wire barrier Israeli soldiers erected across their path. When demonstrators approached Israeli soldiers began beating them with clubs and the butts of their rifles. Two children, aged 7 and 9, were hospitalized, one with a broken hand from the beating of the soldiers who prevented activists from marching or even standing still. A member of the regional popular committee, Mahmoud Zahre, and another man were also taken to the hospital after being beaten on their land in the shadow of the ever-expanding Efrat Settlement.

Also today in Al-Khadr the movement against the Annexation Wall, which is already partially completed in the area and will by its completion take 90% of Al-Khadr’s land, continued to build its momentum. Hundreds of Palestinian residents of Al-Khadr and neighboring towns were joined by solidarity activists as they once again attempted to march towards the site of construction. They were joined by Taysir Khalid, a member of the Political Bureau of the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP) which celebrated its 39th anniversary. Mr. Khalid commended the steadfastness of the people of Al-Khadr and all Palestinians struggling against the Apartheid Wall and theft of their land. He also emphasized the importance of national unity in the face of the occupation, a theme that was also addressed in a speech by Al-Khadr mayor, Ramzi Saleh.
Dozens of Israeli Occupation Forces confronted the march near the road to the Efrat settlement. They rained down rubber-coated steel bullets and noxious gas on the demonstrators. The gas shot was not the “normal” tear gas used in abundance by the IOF. This gas caused several people to faint, vomit, and have convulsions. Reportedly 18 people were hospitalized due to injuries and gas inhalation. Still, though the residents of Al-Khadr have been met by intense repression, the Popular Committee Against the Wall and Settlements reaffirmed their conviction to struggle against the theft of Palestinian land, saying that they are determined that “the Wall will fall.”