Army invades village of Bil’in, disrupting peaceful anti-Wall march

September 30, 2006 2:31 AM IMEMC & Agencies Israeli Settlement, News Report, Palestine 0

Several hundred locals, Israelis, Palestinians and internationals,
demonstrated against the Apartheid Wall Friday in the village of
Bil’in, north of the West Bank city of Ramallah.

According to Abdullah Abu Rahme, local coordinator for the Popular Committee Against the Wall in Bil'in, 200 locals were joined by about 30 internationals and Israelis at the protest this afternoon.  Abu Rahme said that Israeli troops blocked the entrance to the village, and stationed themselves among the villagers' olive groves.  The soldiers closed the gate through the Wall that farmers use to access their land located beyond the Wall.

Before the march could even get started, the Israeli forces invaded the village with military vehicles and dozens of heavily armed soldiers who harassed villagers and tried to keep the march from beginning.  They were pelted with stones thrown by local youth, and retreated from the village, at which point the march toward the olive groves began.

As the villagers marched toward their blocked olive groves, they chanted slogans against the Wall and the ongoing settlement expansion on their land.  They also chanted against the checkpoints and the occupation in general.  Some carried signs saying "700 Bil'in villagers have been injured, 60 arrested for peacefully protesting since September 29th, 2000."  September 29th is significant to Palestinians as the day that started the current 6-year intifada, when protests broke out in Jerusalem after a provocative visit to the Al-Aqsa mosque by then-Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.

The soldiers had stationed themselves around the village, near its entrances, and when the march proceeded toward the olive groves, the military vehicles and soldiers invaded the village for a second time, pushing the march back.  No injuries were reported.

Due to the weather and Ramadan holiday, the demonstration was slower than usual, according to Tom, an American activist and weekly demonstrator.

Protesters attempted to reach the residents’ land and remove the barbed wire separating them from their property, but were unsuccessful.  Tom described the great persistence of the villagers in a comment to IMEMC, “In Bil’in today the fire that burns in the hearts of many against the injustices here may have flickered, but it was not extinguished. It is a fire that will not die, as it spreads from village to village, providing light in the shadow of the wall.”

Each Friday for the last two years, Bil’in residents have gathered with Israelis and internationals to protest the illegal construction of the Apartheid Wall, which is robbing the villagers of their land and livelihood.  Bil'in has become a symbol of the nonviolent struggle against the Israeli occupation, settlement expansion, and Wall construction on Palestinian land.

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