On Saturday 2 February, Palestinian activists erected a tent village on a hilltop overlooking the village of Burin, about 7km south of Nablus, in protest at Israeli plans to expand the nearby extremist settlements of Yitzhar and Bracha.
It was later evicted, following ferocious clashes between the army, settlers and activists, which resulted in four Palestinians arrested, many injured and one young teenager shot in the leg by live ammunition.
Four canvas tents and three aluminium huts were erected on the site in the early morning. By 11 am, approximately 250 activists were also present on the hilltop, many of whom had come from all areas of the West Bank.
The village marks the fourth “tent village” initiative by the popular struggle committees in recent weeks, after Bab al-Shams in the E1 district, al-Karamah in Beit Iksa northwest of Jerusalem, and al-Asra northwest of Jenin.
The hilltop has been slated to be illegally confiscated by the Israelis for settlement expansion. With Yitzhar regarded as the most violent settlement in the West Bank, its expansion could be devastating for the people of Burin who already face regular attacks from the settlers.
The Israeli army arrived as soon as the tents were erected, prompted by the settlers.
In an attempt to protect their tent village, a group of Palestinians stood between the soldiers and the tents in a face-off. As Palestinian numbers started to swell the army began to take action. Tear gas and stun grenades were used extensively, forcing the group back across the plateau. However, the activists persistently returned.
In one episode, the soldiers arrested a man and pulled him away from the group. A video has emerged on Youtube of the soldiers kicking and beating him as he struggles against their hold of him. After a few minutes, the man is seen laying unconscious on the rocky ground and the soldiers carry him away.
The aluminium shelters were carried up the hill by the activists. During the clashes with the army, the group of settlers stole one of the structures and carried it towards their outpost.
At around 2 pm, three loud cracks were heard echoing around the valley indicating live ammunition had just been fired. It emerged that 16 year old Zakariya Al-Najjar was hit by one of the bullets in his thigh. He was immediately evacuated to hospital.
Dozens of people were also seriously injured after being hit by tear gas canisters at point blank range.
Reportedly some settlers left the scene at al-Manatir and entered Burin village, attacking a house there. Settlers also attacked the army over their anger at not being allowed to shoot at the Palestinians.
After five hours of clashing, chanting, singing and dabke dancing by the Palestinians around the tent village, the army stepped up its intimidation tactics. Tear gas canisters were released all over the hilltop, and stun grenades were used in high volume as the army advanced.
The majority of the protestors clambered down the hill towards Burin village, but a few remained to protect their tents. They all sat down in a final attempt to hold their ground, but the soldiers released several stun grenades in their direction, causing them to also flee. Several people fell down the rocky escarpment as soldiers threw stun grenades, causing even more injuries.
Like the previous tent villages, al-Manatir was built on Palestinian owned land, as recognised by international law. Israel’s refusal to allow the tent village to gain permanence, whilst pressing ahead with its own plans to build concrete houses on the site, denotes the system of apartheid Palestinians are forced to live under.