Israeli Forces Blockade Beit Ommar, Using Human Shield and Facing Student Sit-in

17 April 2010

Friday morning, April 16, Beit Ommar woke up to huge blocks of concrete across the entrance to the town and a locked steel barrier which cut off all vehicular access. Other back roads were similarly blocked and pedestrians were questioned by Israeli soldiers checking all IDs.

Around 11 am four jeeps started towards the main street to provoke the youth of the town who replied in the traditional manner by throwing small stones at the vehicles. The Israeli troops set up snipers on a rooftop and other soldiers fired rubber coated bullets at the group of youths. A pair of soldiers grabbed a passing kid of 12 or 13 by the scruff of his neck and forced him to walk in front of them as a human shield as they advanced into the town. The boy was clearly distressed so a third soldier grabbed him forcefully by the arm and put the boy against a wall where he was handcuffed and pushed into a jeep.

Having provoked the youths sufficiently to provide an excuse to invade the town in force, a total of 6 jeeps and one huge Armoured Personnel Carrier spent the next 7 hours firing rubber coated bullets, tear gas, stun grenades and live ammunition around the town causing disruption to what remains of normal life for the residents.

Today the PSP Student Committee had organised an event in the German school to commemorate the 34th Palestinian Political Prisoners Day with guests from across the West Bank including the PA Minister for the Wall, the Director of Agriculture from Hebron District and the families of some of the 170 Beit Ommar political prisoners. The soldiers ordered the event to be canceled however the students refused and staged a sit down protest in front of the M16s and grenade launchers of the mob of soldiers screaming at them. Faced with this resolute peaceful defiance, the frustrated soldiers went back to shooting at the youths in the town. The event was attended by around 500 people and disrupted 2 hours later with the soldiers firing live ammunition into the school playground filled with families and small children. Miraculously no-one was injured apart from scores of victims of tear gas.

The Israeli troops, and Shabak operatives who had turned up, eventually retreated from the town after hours of pointless provocation. The road was left strewn with stones, metal gas grenade canisters, rubber coated bullets and spent cartridges. There are no reported injuries to any youths in Beit Ommar and the young boy used as a human shield was returned late in the afternoon to his distraught family limping badly and in obvious pain.