Monday, November 20, 2017

Intensified protests in Aida camp and the village of al-Khader


By Leona Vicario - April 27, 2013
TAGS:
Section: [Main News] [Life under Occupation]
Tags: [Aida camp] [protests] [al-Khader]

Photo by Daniel Rodriguez.

During the last month, Bethlehem has witnessed different “spontaneous” protests in different hotspots of the governate. 

The clashes between Israeli soldiers have become a kind of routine for the inhabitants of the Aida refugee camp, which lies close to the checkpoint 300— the only access to Jerusalem from north Bethlehem.

Since January, three boys younger than 16 have been shot by the Israeli army. One of them, Saleh Elamareen, was wounded to death by a suspected dumdum bullet despite there being no protests taking place at the time. Two weeks ago, the activist and photographer Mohammed Al-Azza was shot in his face by a rubber covered bullet when he was trying to document the soldiers’ incursion in the camp at 5 am. 

One graffiti on the Apartheid Wall, which delimitates the compound of the camp closest to the checkpoint states: “No one can talk about the camp better than the people from the camp.” Indeed, the residents of this crowded area know more about why there’s been an escalation in the mistreatment of their youth by the soldiers. 

“What is happening in Aida is a small example of the Palestine’s current situation,” explains Ibrahim, a resident of Aida. “Economical problems, unemployment, lack of space for children and youth, etc. Palestinians are suffering from a lot of pressure. We have lost the hope of peace after almost 20 years hearing about it. But we do not see any results.” 

“Instead of see any winds of change,” Ibrahim continued, “Israelis are expanding the settlements more and more. And meanwhile, we are being treating less and less as human beings. We cannot go to Jerusalem, we do not have the right to see the sea and we do not have money neither for any places to go. These specific issues have forced our children to behave in this way.”

Ibrahim references the repeated exchange of rubber cover bullets and stones that has been the common routine several times per week since the beginning of the year. The Israeli soldiers, in coordination with the Palestinian Authority, raid the camp without any clear goal except to terrorize the residents, and the youngest of the residents take these actions as a continuous provocation. 

Instead of see any winds of change,Israelis are expanding the settlements more and more. And meanwhile, we are being treating less and less as human beings

“Where is the peace, the justice?” asks Ibrahim. “These facts force the child to get angry. We can tell them 'you have to go to school,’ because the other option is to be in the street. But they do not believe it because they see that, after the school, no jobs are waiting for them.”

In his opinion, within this strategy of causing hopelessness, inexplicable actions such as when the Israelis shoot tear gas while facing no provocation are part of the regular dehumanization of Palestinians.

“One of the children in the hospital was shot while the soldier was stepping on his head…we are not human beings for them. They are pushing the youth to an uprising.” 

Ibrahim believes that the repeated Israeli incursions in the camp are a prelude to a bigger raid. 

“They are trying to show that the camp, as residential area is insecure, to create an excuse that afterwards allows them to do whatever they want under the pretext of 'security reasons.’”

“The whole situation is frightening because some of the children think the confrontations are a game. Since the beginning of the year, around 27 children have been arrested. And every time the parents have to pay a high fine and face the fact, in case they are part of the 41,000 West Bank Palestinians who work in Jerusalem, that they won’t be allowed permits.”

Those clashes generated by the Israeli intransigence have spread beyond the Aida refugee camp walls to the nearby village of al-Khader.

al-Khader lies under the illegal Israeli Efrat settlement erected on the Hebron Hills and is considered to be under Area C according to the Oslo Agreements (fully under military and administration Israeli control). The lush area of the Solomon Pools encloses the village and is one of the main causes of the riots that, almost every day since last month, have taken place in the area. 


Photo by Daniel Rodriguez.

“Last month, some settlers started to turn up to at Solomon’s Pools. This is a provocation, and the strategy that they follow when they want to steal the land,” explains Jihad, one of the residents of the al-Khader. 

But the most remarkable phenomenon is that the people who are participating in the protests are not from the village. 

“They come from Aida camp or Deisha, maybe after being expelling from there by the Palestinian Authority” explains Jihad, who works for the Ministry of Prisoners. She brought up her four sons alone after her husband was sentenced to a life imprisonment twenty years ago. 

“My sons are not joining the protest, but we do understand their reasons,” she remarks.

Clashes usually start after the noon prayer, where life in al-Khader freezes for four hours. The air becomes thick with tear gas me, the main street is the completely blocked, and the soldiers use rubber cover bullets or shoot the gas canisters into houses. Sometimes the soldiers force some owners to allow them to take their houses as a military position, destroying in their way the interior. Increasing injures and damages are part of the price of the protests. It is common to witness arguments leaded by the inhabitants, asking the protesters to leave. 

Hussein, another resident of al-khader insists that as long as the occupation is ongoing, the resistance will continue.

“They will continue uprooting our trees, stealing the language, the culture, the freedom,” he said. “We will continue to protest. If they stop crossing red lines, we will stop uprising.”




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