More Ni’lin demonstrations, more injuries, and a lot more tear gas

23 January 2009

A regular ritual has developed at the Apartheid Barrier building site at the village of Ni’lin. First a standoff in an olive grove, then an Israeli Occupation Forces invasion of the village, and finally a pitched battle between Palestinian youths and the invaders.

The Palestinians’ demonstrations of defiance in the face of Israeli firepower are now a twice- or even thrice-weekly affair. Armed only with slings for throwing stones, the youth of Ni’lin are up against a potentially-lethal force.

On Wednesday this week, January 21, the Israeli forces invaded the village after a standoff with youths. One person was hospitalized after being hit by a ‘rubber’ bullet, and there were three arrests. Ten people were treated on-site for severe tear gas inhalation. That night, at around 2.00am, the Israelis returned in force, reportedly with up to 30 vehicles and making an unknown number of arrests.

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Today’s demonstration after Friday prayers was much the same as last week’s. Most of the action centred on the main street and around the village ‘square’. A vast amount of tear gas was fired – obvious from the constant barrage of it between 12.30 and 3.00pm, but also from the sacks of spent aluminium canisters that the kids collect afterwards for scrap money.

There were three injuries. Two people were shot in the leg with live ammunition; apparently a 0.22 calibre round that is reportedly silent and has only recently been deployed. Another person was hit in the forehead by a tear gas canister. All three were efficiently evacuated as usual by the Palestinian Red Crescent Society.

Aside from live ammunition, the aluminium tear gas projectiles the Israelis typically use are potentially lethal, both from the impact of the flaming canister and from inhalation of gas in enclosed spaces. But the new black ‘kinetic impact’ projectiles (used today) are even more deadly. They are very fast, heavy and hard, and difficult to track as they only detonate on impact wherein a puncture in the casing jets out tear gas. A direct hit from one of these could be lethal.

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PSP attend these demonstrations, along with ISM and Israelis, to provide a visible presence which hopefully reduces the Israeli forces’ use of lethal force.