First published by Palestine Monitor (as photo story with pictures by Lazar Simeonov)
A bus of about 40 people left Ramallah Friday morning to take part in the weekly demonstrations in Nabi Saleh. As usual, the road leading to the village was closed with the usual explanation of it being a-so-called “military zone.” The group hiked around the soldiers, through the olive fields, and made it to the village as the midday prayer started.
Seeking shade until the prayer ended, the demonstrators sat under trees in the center of the village chatting while kids were playing and singing. Palestinian flags were distributed among the visiting protesters and the youth of the village came with small posters with the words ‘Free Palestine’ written on them.
As the midday prayer ended, about a hundred men, women, and children – Palestinians as well as Israeli and international activists – marched from the center of the city chanting slogans of unity and freedom for Palestine. The group barely made it around the corner before tear gas canisters were flying in their direction. After fleeing from the poisonous gas, the demonstrators tried to regroup and walk through the fields, but this was quickly made
impossible by relentless tear gas from the Israeli soldiers.
“This is insanity,” said Lena, one of the protesters. “It’s excessive use of force against non-violent protesters – they didn’t even let us march before throwing tear gas.”
After an hour, the demonstration got stuck in an open space close to the village center. Soldiers kept throwing tear gas into the field between them and the protesters and a handful of boys and young men responded by throwing stones.
The tear gas canisters set fire to the field’s dry grass making the air thick with smoke as well as tear gas. One of the houses in the village caught fire after a tear gas canister was shot into it. The fire was quickly put out by people from the demonstration and arriving firefighters.
The soldiers stopped shooting tear gas as the fire was being extinguished. But as people resumed their chants, the soldiers resumed firing—heavily forcing people to flee in every direction.
The tear gas canisters sent two boys from the village to the hospital – a nine-year old sustained a broken wrist while a 13 year old was hit in the stomach.
The tear gas also led to several people fainting. Several of the usual protesters of Nabi Saleh said the gas was especially noxious: the victims described the feeling that their lungs would collapse.
As the protest persisted into the late afternoon, the tired group of protesters—consisting mostly of women and children—once again assembled close to the center of the village and started singing and chanting. But after walking less than a few meters down the road towards the soldiers, four military jeeps and a humpy forced their way up the street, throwing teargas and sound grenades, and arresting people at random. Eight were arrested – four Palestinians, three Israelis and one international.
According to Lena, all of the arrested people had been released by 10 PM the same day. But the father of one of the arrested Palestinian men had his permit to work in Israel revoked.
For the second week in a row people could follow the demonstration online, as PalYouthVoice tweeted and sent live streams from the demonstration. At the same time, journalist Joseph Dana tweeted from the demonstration in Bil’in and journalist Gershon Baskin tweeted from Nil’in.
Lena is among the group who initiated the PalYouthVoice twitter stream. She told Palestine Monitor that the tweets and live streams had been a huge success. Last Friday was the first time they had used live streaming, but they already had close to 9,000 followers.
“It’s been amazing – now everyone can watch,” she said. “The attention has made more people interested in Nabi Saleh and interested in going to the demonstrations. The demonstrations in Nabi Saleh has been going on for a year, but not gotten much attention. This time we had the largest number of press so far.”