A group of several dozen residents of Al-Walaja village, near Bethlehem, held a march and rally on Saturday calling on Israel to end the takeover of their land for the construction of the Annexation Wall. They were joined by a number of Israeli peace activists, four of whom were abducted by Israeli troops along with one Palestinian.The rally in Al-Walaja was held just days after the Israeli High Court denied the villagers’ petition to re-route the Annexation Wall to prevent the takeover of half of the village land. As a farming community, the people of Al-Walaja are dependent on their land as the main source of income for most families, and the forced annexation of half the land by Israeli authorities is having a devastating impact on the village economy.
Some of the Israeli activists held a large banner reading, ‘End occupation and apartheid’ in Hebrew, and together, the Israelis and Palestinians marched toward the site of the land confiscation — the village land is being annexed to the illegal Israeli settlement of Gilo.
The group was stopped by heavily-armed Israeli soldiers before reaching the site of the confiscation, and some Israeli activists tried to persuade the soldiers to allow them to continue to their destination. The soldiers refused, and when the Israeli and Palestinian peace activists continued walking forward, the soldiers began to push and shove them backwards.
Initially, the soldiers presented the demonstrators with an outdated military order in Hebrew dated August 26, 2011, saying that the area was a ‘closed military zone’ for the date of August 26th. But the protest was held on August 27th, making the military order invalid. When the Israeli protesters challenged the military order, the soldiers produced an updated military order but it too was no good, as it carried the date of August 28, 2011, a day after the demonstration.
Israeli troops grabbed several demonstrators, whom they had targeted for arrest (one commander was shown on video pointing out to the soldiers which protesters he wanted them to grab). They were taken to an unknown destination, most likely an Israeli military base, for processing.