Demonstrations in Betlehem District As Israeli Government Allows Border Police to Open Fire

22 March 2008

This Friday, March 21, more than 200 Palestinians marched against the construction of the Annexation Barrier in the Betlehem District in two different demonstrations in Al-Khadr and Um Salamuna. These demonstrations came two days after Israeli media reported that the Israeli Occupation Forces have been given more “legal” leeway to fire live ammunition at the legs of demonstrators near the “Separation Barrier”. The report also stated that international and Israeli demonstrators were not to be fired on. This policy has been in practice, with varying frequency, since the resistance to the construction of the Annexation Barrier began in 2003. However, news that the Border Police had been given clearance to shoot non-violent demonstrators was worrisome to organizers of Friday’s protests.

Severe restrictions were put in place around Um Salamuna in an attempt to keep international and Israeli supporters from attending the demonstration. Regardless, more than 100 people, including a large contingent of women, marched. Friday was Mothers Day throughout the Middle East. In Al-Khadr, more than 50 people gathered near Route 60 to demonstrate against the confiscation of more 90% of their land for the construction of the Annexation Barrier. Though Israeli snipers were seen in the hills above the demonstration, no shots were fired.

Both Al-Khadr and Um Salamuna are directly affected by the Annexation Barrier’s route around the settlement of Efrat, in the Etzion settlement bloc. Efrat’s mayor recently announced the construction of a new ‘neighborhood’ in Efrat, confiscating even more Palestinian land.