Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Peaceful protests across Qalqilya area violently dispersed

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By Ruairi Henchy - February 26, 2015
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Section: [Main News] [In Pictures]
Tags: [popular struggle] [nonviolent resistance] [protests]

Photos by Ruairi Henchy.

Two demonstrations against the Israeli occupation took place on Thursday, February 25 near Qalqilya in the occupied West Bank.

In the town of Azzun, locals marched from the municipality office to one of the roads leading out of the town in protest against the closure of two of the village’s three exit roads. Since 1991, all traffic entering and exiting the village has been through one road. Residents told The Palestine Monitor they were also marching because of Israel’s general repressive policies and frequent raids carried out by Israeli troops in the village. In the nearby village of Izbit-Tabib, people from around the area gathered to show solidarity with the residents of the approximately 25 houses in the village slated for demolition.

The Palestine Monitor spoke to Mohammed Radwan, a coordinator of the Popular Resistance Struggle Committee in the area. “We are demonstrating today to demand an end to the repression of the village and to re-open the northern and eastern gates,” he said. 

He explained that since 1991, only one of the entrances to the village has been open. “It should take only 10 minutes to get to Qalqilya, but since they closed the other entrances it now takes three times as long,” he explained. Mohammed said that the Israelis have closed the other entrances for the “security of the settlers” in the nearby Jewish-only colony of Ma’ale Shimron, but explained that re-opening the roads would not adversely affect the settlements in any way.

Locals gathered at the town municipality around 11 a.m. and marched to the barbed wire fence blocking off one of the roads on the edge of the town. As they approached the fence, Israeli soldiers threw about seven or eight stun grenades at the demonstrators. Having failed to disperse the peaceful protest, the army proceeded to fire streams of tear gas behind the group, and then directly at the protestors, forcing them to run several hundred metres through the stinging fumes.

The soldiers covered the entire area in tear gas in moments, through the use of both hand held launchers and the vehicle-mounted Venom cannon. Venom, produced in the US, can fire 150 tear gas canisters in less than 30 seconds. 

The army followed the retreating protesters as local youth began to retaliate by throwing stones, and within minutes, a large part of the town was engulfed in tear gas. Many locals were forced to run from their homes, carrying babies and small children for fear of the invading soldiers. Three army jeeps drove a path through the crowd and stopped in a street in the middle of the town, firing stun grenades and tear gas at random, including directly at journalists.

Having reassembled at the municipality building, many locals proceeded to travel to the nearby village of Izbit-Tabib, in solidarity with residents to whom Israeli authorities have delivered impending home demolition orders. Around 25 houses, including a school and the village council, are due to be destroyed because they were constructed without an Israeli-issued building permit in Area C—an area that makes up roughly 60% of the occupied West Bank.

Construction by Palestinians in Area C is all but banned under Israeli law. Locals argue, however, that because none of the buildings in question have concrete roofs—rather they are furnished with galvanise roofs—they technically fall under the category of “agricultural buildings,” which are allowed in some instances.

After assembling at the village council for speeches and prayer, the crowd proceeded to march peacefully to the main road that leads to Qalqilya. Having arrived at the junction the village, youth spontaneously broke into song and traditional dance and chanted slogans against the occupation, while a small group of soldiers looked on from across the road

After a few jovial minutes of song and dance, the demonstration was suddenly caught in a pincer movement as several jeeploads of soldiers arrived both from the main road and from the village, behind the demonstration. The army immediately began firing teargas canisters indiscriminately at the marchers, directly hitting more than several members of the group and a nearby journalist.

Hundreds of local Palestinians spent almost the entire day protesting in solidarity with their neighbours, joined by a handful of international and Israeli solidarity activists. Despite the overwhelmingly peaceful nature of the actions, such demonstrations are routinely met with violence by the Israeli military.

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