Despite the unusual heat of over 40 degrees and the fast kept by Muslims during the month of Ramadan, the people in Bilâin marched as every Friday to the Apartheid Wall to protest its construction. This Fridayâs protest was focused on the demand to release the prisoners and strongly condemn the ill-treatment and humiliation of Palestinian prisoners by the Israeli occupation forces.
The march was organized by the Popular Committee Against the Wall and Settlements in Bil’in, and the residents were joined by dozens of international supporters. As a result of the violent repression by the Israeli Occupation Forces an international solidarity activist was arrested, a Palestinian journalist injured and dozens suffered breathing problems as a result of tear gas inhalation.
***image2***The people that gathered in the march raised Palestinian flags and pictures of prisoners of the popular resistance. They showed pictures of blindfolded and handcuffed Palestinians detainees, and alongside them soldiers posing with these detained Palestinians. A group of protesters had blindfolded and handcuffed themselves and posed in front of the Israeli soldiers to take pictures to underline the constant abuse and humiliation of thousands of Palestinian detainees by soldiers of the Israeli Occupation Forces. The photos displayed on a facebook page of a female soldier posing in front of blindfolded and handcuffed Palestinian detainees, which recently made the headlines, is only one of many. The Popular Committee Against the Wall and the Settlements in Bil’in deplored the conduct of the Israeli soldiers and urged the international community and all international human rights organizations to bring the soldiers and their leaders to justice in front of international courts to prosecute them for violations of the human rights of the Palestinian prisoners and war crimes the soldiers have committed.
The demonstrators first marched through the streets of the village calling for national unity and underlining the need to continue resistance against the occupation. The people chanted slogans condemning the policy of occupation, the Wall and the settlements, and an end to the siege in Gaza. Other slogans condemned the evictions and home demolitions in Jerusalem and the desecration of and excavations in the ancient Palestinian cemetery, Mamilla, and demanded an end to the deportation of Palestinians from Jerusalem. They called for an end to the arrest and repression campaign and the release of all detainees, and in particular the activists arrested for their participation in the popular resistance.
***image3***Then, the march headed towards the Wall, where the Israeli occupation army had closed the gate with razor wire and was stationed behind the concrete blocks along the Apartheid Wall. A large contingent of the military blocked the way of the protesters near the gate of the Wall. When the demonstrators tried to cross towards the land behind the Wall owned by the people of Bilâin, the army fired stun grenades, rubber-coated metal bullets and tear gas at them from all directions. They chased after the demonstrators and arrested a 28-year old Norwegian activist. They injured the journalist Haitham Al-Khatib (34 years old) in his chest as they beat him. Dozens of participants suffered breathing problems due to the large amount of tear gas the army shot into the crowd.
The heavy handed repression by the military continues even though the military order declaring the area close to the Apartheid Wall in Bilâin and Niâlin a âclosed militaryâ zone has been expired for the passed six months.