Scores Injured As Ni’lin Blocks Bulldozers
Thursday morning in Ni’lin began with dozens of Israeli jeeps entering the village and declaring a curfew, in an attempt to thwart the demonstration planned for 11:30 that day. Though the curfew was not enforced by the time the demonstration began and Israeli and international supporters were able to arrive to the meeting place, the feeling of violent confrontation had already been established. Nearly 200 residents, Israelis, and internationals marched towards the bulldozers that are destroying hundreds of olive trees for the construction of the Annexation Barrier. When demonstrators were still several dozen meters away from the soldiers, the Israeli forces began firing tear gas, rubber-coated steel bullets, and sound grenades at the participants. Several people were injured or fell unconscious due to the huge barrage of tear gas fired at the crowd. In another devastatingly callous move, soldiers prevented Palestinian farmers from putting out a fire in several olive trees that was set by either a tear gas canister or sound grenade. Farmers were forced to stand by as approximately 10 additional olive trees were destroyed; they were shot at by soldiers when they attempted to put out the fire.
2 men, 1 Palestinian organizer of the demonstrations and 1 Israeli activist, were arrested during the demonstration. The Israeli was held overnight and is banned from the area for 2 months. The Palestinian was also released.
Friday, the demonstrations continued, as did the overwhelming use of force by the Israeli military. Activists described the scene as “mayhem” as people were attempting to carry out wounded demonstrators and soldiers used the firing of tear gas and rubber-coated bullets to ‘pin down’ demonstrators and prevent them from re-grouping. Hundreds of people gathered again on Sunday, in a demonstration that lasted approximately 4 hours in which participants succeeded in blocking the bulldozers 3 times. That demonstration ended with 30 injuries, 4 requiring hospitalization. Still, the dedicated and well-organized residents of Ni’lin are determined to struggle against the theft of their land by making the construction of the Annexation Barrier as expensive, and difficult as possible.
This strategy partially worked for the village (and others in the region) in the past. After demonstrations in 2003 which coincided with a court case, the path of the Annexation Barrier was changed and Ni’lin regained some of its land. Because demonstrations at that time occurred practically every time bulldozers arrived, the Israeli military was unable to create the “facts on the ground” by finishing construction before the court case was decided, as was the situation in Bil’in, which after some time, decided to only have demonstrations on Fridays. It is therefore vital that Ni’lin get all the support from international and Israeli activists needed to continue its demonstrations several times a week, the next one Wednesday, June 4.