15 Arrested As Palestinians Breach Jerusalem Checkpoint From Bethlehem

30 March 2010

Update All 15 detainees, including the 10 Palestinians who were held for 5 days in military prison have been released. At a hearing at Ofer prison for the 10 Palestinians in an unusual ruling, the judge admonished the Israeli police for arresting “non-violent” protesters.

video and photos from ActiveStills

On Sunday, March 28, approximately 200 Palestinians, Christians and Muslim supporters along with international and Israeli solidarity activists, marched from the center of Bethlehem towards the Gilo checkpoint, a massive terminal checkpoint in the Annexation Wall dividing Bethlehem from Jerusalem. The demonstrators were demanding access to Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, where Christians traditionally hold a procession on the Sunday before Easter.

The demonstrators successfully and non-violently crossed the checkpoint by overwhelming the Israeli soldiers present, carrying signs expressing their right to enter Jerusalem, practice their religion freely, and in solidarity with the Palestinian residents of Jerusalem facing expulsion.

After crossing the checkpoint through the gate usually used by tourist buses and marching several meters into Jerusalem municipality, speeches were made in several languages, and the group turned to go back into Bethlehem. It was at this point that the Israeli military attacked the group, arresting 15 people, 4 Israelis, 1 international and 10 Palestinian residents of the West Bank including 2 members of the Al-Ma’asara popular committee and a member of the Bethlehem popular committee and staff member of Holy Land Trust, who, along with several NGO’s in Bethlehem including Holy Land Trust, organized the demonstration.

Though the 5 foreigners were released the same day, the 10 Palestinians arrested are still being held in Ofer military prison, near Ramallah. On Monday, dozens gathered to protest the arrest of these non-violent activists and their continued detention. Another demonstration at the prison is planned for Wednesday.