The Ni’lin Siege: 4 days and counting

7 July 2008

Friday 4th – Day one

The villagers of Ni’lin have staged demonstrations against the apartheid wall for over 50 days on almost a daily basis. Hundreds of residents have repeatedly delayed the destruction of their fields by storming the construction area and recently have even managed to damage machinery and so the army decided to resort to illegal collective punishment in its attempts to strangle the outburst of popular rage in the village.

Around 4am, Friday 4th July massive army forces gathered at the three entrances to the village and brought life in the village to a halt.

The village’s popular committee initially assumed the siege was only a temporary measure taken by the army to try and block Israeli and international supporters from entering the village. Walking through the groves, most supporters managed to eventually get in, but the media was stopped. To try and avoid trouble, a protest prayer planed to take place by the checkpoint, was moved to the center of the village. This did not discourage the army from further attempts to provoke and employ violence, and as soon as the prayer ended, a group of armored jeeps invaded the village’s main street.

Enraged by the siege and the subsequent invasion, about a thousand villagers set out to resist the army, they were accompanied by Israeli and international supporters. Burning barricades were rose and volleys of stones were pelted at the jeeps, eventually shattering the bulletproof windshields of two of them. An armored bulldozer that was sent to clear the barricades was also held off.

The invasion and consequential riot continued until dark, when the army pulled out to the entrances of the village.

Saturday 5th

Despite the army’s attacks the Popular Committee of the village decided to carry out another non-violent demonstration. The aim was to fly kites decorated with the Palestinian flag over the settlements built on the land of the village, to state that not only the land but also the air is Palestinian. Though forced to walk for over an hour through the mountains, Israeli and international supporters were again successful at entering the village, however before the demonstration could reach it’s destination it was met with tear gas and rubber bullets.

Meanwhile the army had once more invaded the village in force, bringing bulldozers to break through the barricades set up in the streets. During the following hours youths attempted to drive them out by throwing stones. The army responded with prolific shooting and fired tear gas into houses, causing a fire in one. When the army finally pulled back eleven people where left severely injured, one of them a young boy shot in the throat.

Shortly after dark the army pulled out to the village’s entrances to continue the

Sunday 6th

At 5AM a complete and very tight curfew was imposed on the village. Small groups of villagers, accompanied by Israeli supporters, attempted to walk in the streets and break the curfew, but suppression was very harsh, and the curfew breakers were violently dispersed.

The medical team from the Red Crescent attempted to negotiate with the soldiers during the day, trying to get people out from the village, but they were denied each time. The twentieth time they tried to access the village the soldiers said they would shoot them if they attempted again.

Monday 7th – Day Four

The curfew continues, with continuing brutal force employed by the army.

At midday a group of international supporters along with villagers from Ni’lin and nearby villages tried to break the army siege and get food and medical supplies into the village, soldiers attacked them with tear gas and sound bombs and troops kidnapped three local activists.

Despite repeated attempts to regroup the activists were dispersed and failed to break the siege. In today’s protest 17 have been injured including an international who was hit in the knee by a ricocheting rubber bullet. Another source claims over a hundred people have been injured in Ni’lin in the last three days.

Siege expected to continue

The barrier will confiscate 2,500 dunams (620 acres, 250 hectares) of the village’s lands to the adjacent Israeli settlements, and accommodate the construction of a new neighborhood, an industrial zone and graveyard. The International Court of Justice declared the Israeli barrier illegal four years ago this week.

Salah Al khawaja, of the local Popular Committee Against the Wall and Settlement Construction, said the Israeli army invaded the local girls school and used it as a military site adding that troops attacked local businesses and set fire to a local car.

Al Khawaja also reported that the tear gas shot into villagers’ homes has caused several injuries, among them a 4 day old baby. Military bulldozers have damaged the roads and public property and the windows of a house. At least five houses have been raided with furniture and electronic equipment destroyed. Several people have been arrested, many more beaten and detained for hours.

The mayor of Ni’lin, Ayman Nafi’, says the town is running low on basic food products such as bread and milk due to the curfew. Cooking gas is also running low and the basic needs of the village cannot be covered for more than another three days, sadly the villagers now expect the curfew to last.

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