Week of Resistance in Beit Ommar Against Offensive in Gaza

8 January 2009

Since the offensive attack on Gaza, daily demonstrations and clashes with Israeli military have happened throughout the West Bank as Palestinians display their outrage at the unrelenting attacks on the civilian population of Gaza. In Beit Ommar, there have been several organized and spontaneous demonstrations, large and small, nearly everyday, which have only increased in their size and duration since the ground offensive began Saturday night, January 3.

On Friday, January 2, hundreds of youth confronted a relatively large invasion of Israeli troops into the village. The soldiers gave no reason for entering the village. They began by building roadblocks of burning tires and dumpsters to try to prevent the entry of troops into the village, which was successful. Soldiers then began shooting tear gas and rubber-coated steel bullets down the main street at youth who were throwing stones from more than 60 meters away. Two cameramen, one from Reuters and one from European Press Agency, were stopped as they attempted to enter the village. Though they held press credentials they were savagely attacked by the Israeli soldiers. One had his camera broken as was beaten so severely that he was eventually evacuated to the hospital in Hebron. Several teenagers were hit with rubber-coated steel bullets as the confrontation began, but were not seriously injured. Soldiers, not content to simply leave the village, began occupying the roofs of several houses, including the house opposite in the international house. When a Palestinian committee member of PSP stuck his head out of the international house to videotape the soldiers, one soldier fired rubber-coated steel bullets at him, one bouncing off the windowsill and hitting him in the head, though he was not injured.

Soldiers then began using live ammunition on residents, shooting indiscriminately. Damage was done to several houses and at least one tractor was completely disabled when its engine was shot.
Three residents of Beit Ommar were also lightly to moderately wounded with live ammunition: Saleh Mohammed Mustafa Ikhlayl, 26, Salah Saleh Kamel ‘Alami,24, and Mohammed Bahjet Abu Sara ‘Alami, 20 were all hospitalized for injuries but were released the next day. Over night on Friday, 2 residents were arrested from their homes. They are still being held in Israeli prison pending charges.

On Saturday, January 3, the city council called for a general demonstration. International and Israeli activists, along with members of the new Solidarity Committee for Palestinian Land from Husan and Beit Jala villages, joined approximately 100 residents of Beit Ommar in a march around the village. Local leaders, on orders from the regional Palestinian Authority Government, attempted to prevent local youth from confronting Israeli forces at the entrance to the village or at the nearby Karmei Tsur settlement. Some youth did march towards the settlement and threw a few symbolic stones in the direction of a waiting jeep, before returning to the village.

Monday, January 5, as the ground offensive in Gaza intensified, a demonstration began with a small group of masked Fatah members creating an enormous barricade at the entrance of the village with burning tires that filled the sky with smoke. They also symbolically burned an Israeli flag before marching towards the Israeli military tower at the entrance to the village. Just before the tower they, along with other local residents, pushed large rocks in the road to block a pending invasion by Israeli forces. Soldiers did arrive and began firing tear gas and live ammunition into the village. this continued for a number of hours. Monday night Israeli forces surreptitiously entered the village and arrrested one man, 22 year-old Ayman Mohammed Abu Maria. He is still being held by Israeli forces.
demonstrations also erupted for the first time this week in neighboring Halhul where youth confronted Israeli forces near the route 60 highway.

On Tuesday, January 6, Israeli forces entered Beit Ommar in the late morning and then closed the gate, preventing anyone from driving in or out of the main entrance. They then spread out on foot throughout the village and began periodically shooting at stone-throwing youth who had come out to confront them. Shooting continued for several hours until the soldiers once again seemed to have their fill and left as quickly as they had come. Over night, Ahmed Mohammed Murshed Za’aqiq, 21, was arrested. He has a serious heart condition and was taken without his medications. His location is currently unknown and PSP is advocating for his immediate release and at least immediate access to his life-saving medications. We will continue to write updates on the situation in Beit Ommar and Ahmed’s condition as we have them.