Editor Palestine Monitor
28 August 2010
The weekly protest march at the village of Bil’in ended in Israeli Occupation Forces storming the crowd, hitting three activists with tear gas grenades, and shooting a man in the knee with a rubber-coated bullet from less than thirty yards away.
Ashraf Khatib was rushed from the field to the Palestine Medical Center in Ramallah, according to the Bil’in local popular committee.
The march started at the local popular committee headquarters near the Bil’in mosque. Activists from all over the world joined Palestinians and residents in a 150-person protest of the construction of the separation barrier through the village.
“Wahda wahda wataniya!” they chanted.
Many donned masks of Abdullah Abu Rahmah, a school teacher and leader of the popular struggle at Bil’in, who was convicted last Friday of “incitement” after an eight-month long trial.
“Today we are all Abu Rahmah,” said a village leader before the march. Called the Palestinian Ghandi, the investigation of the non-violence leader prompted a critique by European Union foreign affairs and security chief Catherine Ashton.
“[The conviction] and possible imprisonment is intended to prevent him and other Palestinians from exercising their legitimate right to protest against the existence of the separation barriers in a non-violent manner,” read Ashton’s statement.
The march snaked down through olive fields in the mid-morning heat, before stopping before a tangle of barbed wire and concrete. The marble grave of Bassem “Pheel” Abu Rahme, the only death since the weekly protest started, nearby. The group shouted at the distant soldiers across the road.
Detonation of a sound grenade interrupted the protesters. White trails of tear gas canisters brought gazes skyward tracing the dangerous chemical weapons – Bassem was killed by one.
Clouds drifted over the crowd and many ran, splitting them in two. Twenty minutes of continual waves of tear gas decimated the crowd. Two Palestinians used slingshots to hurl stones at the heavily armed soldiers with riot shields and helmets.
A cry from the uphill olive groves notified the protesters to running soldiers flanking their frontline position. Many ran back towards the village through the olive trees or up the road. Green uniforms and black guns followed. Eyes streamed tears.
“Bil’in is not the only or the first,” said an Israeli organizer before the tear gas and rocks. “But it has become a symble of the struggle against the wall.”
ST McNeil reporting from Bil’in.