This week the army resumed nighttime raids in Nabi Saleh. During the weekly Friday demonstration, the village was attacked with excessive amounts of live ammunition and tear gas. A curfew was declared prohibiting residents from leaving their homes for a twenty four hour period. Despite the recognition of unarmed demonstrations as a legitimate form of protest by the European countries, Israel is pushing forward with its campaign of harsh military repression.
This past Friday the army was in streets of the West Bank village of Nabi Saleh long before sixty Palestinians along with Israeli and international supporters gathered for the weekly demonstration against the occupation. Early Friday morning, army jeeps were seen driving up and down the streets of the small village informing residents that a curfew would come into effect in the afternoon and anyone on the streets would be a target of arrests or worse. Earlier this week, the army raided Nabi Saleh twice in the middle of the night. This was part of a strategy of repression which has escalated to a fever pitch in recent days.
The village was sealed by the army at all entrances at 09h00. Once the demonstration began marching to the confiscated land of the village at 12h30, the army simply opened fire on the unarmed demonstrators. One activist who was present on the ground said that “from that moment forward there were always 50-60 soldiers in the village; patrolling and taking over houses.”
Throughout the afternoon, soldiers would raid a house, lock themselves inside and the family outside. Anyone that was walking on the street was shot at with live ammunition. Additionally, soldiers used an excessive amount of poisonous tear gas on the village. Repeatedly, soldiers fired the “ringo’ which shoots 64 tear gas projectiles in roughly 8 seconds. The ‘ringo effect’ leaves the entire village in a cloud of tear gas. This form of harsh collective punishment has not been used since the time of the building of the Separation Wall in Ni’ilin in 2008/2009
Three minor injuries were reported among protesters in Nabi Saleh on Friday. However, the army claimed that one soldier was hit by a stone while video evidence (embedded above) clearly shows that the soldier simply tripped on the ground while firing live ammunition at demonstrators. No foreign or domestic media were present for the demonstration, leading many protesters to believe that the army escalated its violent campaign of repression precisely because of the media vacuum.
Since December 2009, Nabi Saleh has been targeted for violent repression of its unarmed demonstration against the occupation by the Israeli army. Last weeks events, night raids and the excessive use of live ammunition to crush the demonstration, represents a new level of repression against the village. However, the villagers plan to continue with their demonstrations until their land is freed and the occupation is finished.
Starting at minute 6:14, an Israeli activist is seen talking with soldiers who have taken over a rooftop in the village. The activist is challenging them to think about what they are doing in Nabi Saleh and have moral reflection. The soldiers respond by throwing a tear gas canister at Israeli. Between this episode and the images of the entire village engulfed in tear gas or live bullets whizzing through the air, one gets the sense of what Israeli military repression means for the village of Nabi Saleh.