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Eight Children Hospitalised in Nabi Saleh Siege

Palestine Monitor


January 31, 2010

Around twenty residents of Nabi Salah village were injured during Friday’s demonstration, directed mainly at the Hallamish settlement which occupies the village’s farmland and primary water source. Most of those injured were children not participating in the protest, tear gassed and fired upon with rubber bullets as they sheltered in a nearby house.

Although yesterday was only the fourth protest of its kind, Nabi Salah has fast become a hub of the popular struggle, adopting the non-violent principles of its sister movements in Bilin and Ni’lin. Following on from the fractious scenes of the previous week, which saw six arrests and several serious injuries, around 200 villagers and activists approached the IDF positions waving flags and chanting demands for the return of their land, annexed by settlers.

JPG - 42 kb

The protest begins peacefully. Hallamish settlement in the background.

Photo by Renee Lewis

They were met with volleys of tear gas, sound bombs and rubber bullets, or as an IDF spokesman put it, "the crowd were dispersed with non-lethal means". Subsequently the demonstration became fractious and chaotic, with masked youths hurling stones at soldiers, who attempted to pick off individual targets from their convoy. Armoured cars then rolled deep into the village, driving most of the protestors indoors, with a small minority continuing to throw stones.

Hossein Domini, a lifelong resident of Nabi Salah and member of the GRS civil affairs committee which negotiates with Israeli settlers, found his house turned into a refuge for those fleeing the clouds of tear gas billowing through the streets.

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Youth with catapult fleeing the smoke cloud.

Photo by Renee Lewis

Domini showed us the damage inflicted the previous Friday, with smashed windows and burned furniture in several rooms. His wife and two daughters had been arrested the previous week. "My wife was choking from the gas coming through the windows", he told us, "she stepped outside for air and was attacked by soldiers who hit her with rifles. My two daughters went to help and they arrest them too." Hossein was forced to pay 30,000 shekels for their return, he believes his position on the committee saved them from a more severe punishment. "I believe she would be there for not less than three months if I had no relations with Israelis", he says. One of his daughters, Marina, says she was treated "forcefully" during her arrest and subsequent interrogations.

While Hossein shows us the damage, rubber bullets smash an upstairs window and thick clouds of tear gas flood through the breach. Another canister sets the curtains aflame, sending the shelter-seekers out into the streets to contend with a new menace, the liquid spray, known as skunk, that mixes sewage and chemicals to create an overpowering smell.

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Truck spraying ’skunk’, a foul smelling mix of chemicals.

Photo by Renee Lewis

Upstairs while Hussein attempts to douse the fire, the nursery where infants are kept during the protests has become impossible to breathe in. A dozen children, none older than ten, are herded into a small bedroom on the other side of the house, guarded by their anxious mother. "He cannot breathe", she screams of the baby in her lap, gasping and choking on the fumes. The windows cannot be opened as the skunk spray arriving from the other side is too powerful. The oldest of the boys has been shot in the stomach with a rubber bullet, although it is hard to tell if his tears are the result of his injury or from gas inhalation.

A crowd has gathered outside the window, Red Crescent workers and villagers scramble up the side to help the children climb out of the second story window. One by one they are ferried through and down to the ambulance where they are given emergency oxygen treatment. The mother in floods of tears, prays prostrate on the floor.

The street outside has become a field hospital, with dozens of prone bodies fitted with oxygen masks. Ambulance workers inform us that ten have been taken to hospital, eight with severe gas inhalation, two with bullet wounds. In all but two of these cases the victim was under sixteen.

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Father comforts his daughter after a tear gas barrage.

Photo by Renee Lewis

Bassam, another lifelong resident of Nabi Salah, tells us he has been in communication with the army. "I said what are you doing? You are shooting children. What are you trying to do? They said nothing. I asked when they would leave and they said straight away."

"Next week there will be more people at the protest. The people of this village are all one family and when our land is being stolen and our people being attacked we will continue to struggle. We make our reaction non-violent to shout a voice to the world that we are not terrorists, we are just people who want our rights. We need the involvement of other countries because we cannot do it alone. All the people have the right to protest against settlements and the occupation. This is just the beginning."

Hossein, having been forced out of his home by the gas, echoes the sentiment; "even if I am afraid that me or my family will be killed, we have no other choice. They are stealing our land and we will fight them. There is nobody to fix our problem. People talk about Islamic terrorism, but it is time for the international community to recognise the terrorism from the settlers and the Israeli army".

Check out the Popular Struggle information website http://www.popularstruggle.org/

:: Article nr. 62805 sent on 01-feb-2010 07:16 ECT


Link: www.palestinemonitor.org/spip/spip.php?article1249

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