Friday’s protest in Bil’in village, which began after noon prayers, was conducted in the midst of a village sports tournament this week, that has been going on for the past several days.
The focus of the sports festival was, "No To the Wall", and was meant to use sports and football as a form of non-violent resistance to the Wall construction and settlement expansion onto village land.
The rally began with a speech read by Omar Assaf, a member of the Committee of National and Islamic Factions in the West Bank. The march to the Wall construction site began with villagers carrying Lebanese and Palestinian flags.
But the army was already present within the village, having occupied several rooftops with snipers, and with armored vehicles stationed at the entrance of the village in order to stop the procession there. There were also water cannon trucks that fired blue dye at the protestors, which, according to local organizer Abdullah Abu Rahma, appeared to contain toxic components.
Seven residents who were hit with the full blast of the dye began screaming and shaking when the dye hit them. The soldiers then fired rubber-coated bullets, and an Associated Press photographer named Rami Abdu was injured when one of the rubber-coated bullets hit him in the back.
According to a press release from the International Solidarity Movement, who had members present at the protest, "Bright blue water was fired from the canon at the demonstrators, totally unprovoked, as soon as they were within range of the massive white tank. Many demonstrators were soaked by the blue liquid, dying their hair, clothes and skin, and most of them reported subsequent burning and irritation of the skin. Tear gas was also used against the demonstrators as soon as the water canon was engaged, so it is unclear whether the burning was from gas being absorbed into the wet skin and clothing, or whether the water itself contained a chemical. Regardless, the message from the Israeli army was clear: non-violent protest will not be tolerated and will be met by increasing displays of force."
Soldiers then fired concussion grenades toward farmers’ orchards next to the village, and several olive trees belonging to Khalil Abu Rahma were burned. Dozens of olive trees were turned blue by the toxic dye, leading to fears among the farmers that the dye would damage or kill their trees. Samples of the dye were were taken by some local residents to Sheikh Zayed Hospital in Ramallah for examination as to the components.
The Bil’in Popular Committee Against the Wall and Settlements has organized weekly demonstrations since January 2005 against the wall and against the illegal confiscation of 60% of their farmland, and have stated that they will steadfastly continue with their weekly demonstrations despite the army’s apparent intent to brutally repress them.
At last week’s Friday protest in Bil’in, two of the people present were critically injured. One, an Israeli lawyer, who was shot in the neck and head by rubber-coated metal bullet at close range last Friday, underwent immediate surgery to remove the bullet and shards of his skull, which was successful. He was put back in intensive care today, however, due to a severe infection in his brain and is undergoing surgery today.
Rina, from Denmark who suffered from a severe concussion, after a soldier beat her with the butt of his gun last Friday, is still hospitalized and awaiting the results from her MRI. However, she is beginning to feel better and is finally able to walk on her own today, according to the International Solidarity Movement’s statement.