26 Israeli Activists Arrested as Beit Ommar Residents Demonstrate Against Closures

2 April 2011

On Saturday, April 2nd, 2011, around two dozen Israeli and international solidarity activists joined with an equal number of Palestinian residents of Beit Ommar to protest the prolonged road closures in the village. While the main gate was opened by security forces late on Friday evening, other roads leading into the village remain blocked by cement barriers.

Waving Palestinian flags, the protesters marched down the main street towards the front gate of Beit Ommar. They were stopped before the gate by large numbers of Israeli Forces. The soldiers produced paperwork to show that the area around Beit Ommar remained a closed military zone, and threatened to arrest anyone trying to cross it. An Israeli activist attempted to negotiate with the military, but was arrested. Soldiers then threw tear gas and sound bombs at the remaining demonstrators, and in the ensuing confusion, arrested two more Israeli activists. All three were released several hours later.

As the tear gas faded, the demonstrators regrouped and again approached the line of Israeli soldiers. The soldiers closed and locked the main gate, then threatened to arrest the remaining international activists. One soldier demanded that the internationals leave through the main gate, while another insisted that they must return in the village. The confusion seemed to stem from the ambiguous borders set in the closed military zone order: according to the paperwork, the closed area covers at least the area between the village and Route 60, but possibly as much as the entirety of Beit Ommar. As the soldiers argued among themselves about how to interpret and enforce the order, the protesters dispersed without incident.

Several hours after the end of the demonstration, a group of twenty-three Israeli solidarity activists arrived at the main gate of Beit Ommar. They protested its closure until Israeli security forces closed in and began to beat and kick them. All twenty-three activists were subsequently arrested. Fifteen have since been released; the remaining eight remain in custody at the Kiryat Arba settlement police station.