Demonstrations Across Palestine Against Strikes on Gaza Get Violent Response, 2 Killed Near Ramallah

29 December 2008

On Saturday, December 27, just hours after missile strikes on the Gaza Strip began, demonstrations broke out throughout Israeli and Palestinian cities and towns. In Hebron, dozens were injured, including 1 international solidarity activist, when Israeli soldiers began firing into the crowds who had gathered near the Ibrahimi Mosque (Abraham’s Tomb) with tear gas canisters and rubber-coated steel bullets. Hundreds of people flooded the streets in Nablus in a spontaneous demonstration where local leaders called for Palestinian unity in the face of the on-going massacre. In Tel Aviv, nearly 1,000 people from several Israeli cities gathered in the center of town and, despite an order from the police that no march would happen, marched towards an Ehud Olmert press conference. 6 people were arrested when the broke through the police barricades and attempted to block the street.

On Sunday, December 28, demonstrations continued throughout the West Bank. In Ramallah, as well as in Hebron and later in Betlehem, Palestinian police, under the leadership of Mahmoud Abbas, attacked demonstrators when they attempted to demonstrate their outrage by confronting Israeli soldiers and watchtowers. Palestinian police opened fire on demonstrators in Hebron and assaulted and stole the camera of an international activist who filmed the attacks. Later, the international was called to the office of the Palestinian security services where he was given back his camera and told that there “had been a mistake.”

In Beit Ommar, soldiers overtly provoked a confrontation with locals. Hundreds of residents were attending a funeral of an elderly woman who had died during the night. Though the residents proceeded past an Israeli military jeep with no confrontation, Israeli soldiers began driving their military vehicles back and forth in front of the cemetery. When a few youth finally vented their anger at the presence of the military at a funeral, and the onslaught in Gaza, by throwing rocks at the jeep, more soldiers quickly arrived, blocking the main highway in front of Beit Ommar and then invading Beit Ommar with several Armoured Personnel Carriers and military jeeps. For the next 3 hours soldiers shot tear gas and rubber-coated steel bullets up at stone-throwing youth and anyone else who happened to be out on the main street of the village. When an international activist with PSP attempted to walk past the soldiers one of them asked her, “do you want me to shoot you?” Youth set fire to tires and put up makeshift barricades in the street to prevent the Israeli military vehicles from entering farther into the village.

In Ni’lin, spontaneous demonstrations began the same day as the bombing, with a more organized vigil Saturday night. On Sunday, December 28, a small group of young Palestinian men, along with at least one Israeli activist, were fired upon by Israeli soldiers with live ammunition from less than 15 meters away. Arafat Khawaja, 22, was shot in the back. He was pronounced dead at a hospital in Ramallah that afternoon. Mohammed Khawaja, 20, was shot in the forehead. He is currently brain-dead. Mohammed Hamid, 17, from Silwad, was also killed during a demonstration on Sunday.