At least two hundred Palestinians, accompanied by a number of Israeli and International peace activists marched to the confiscated land in Artas village, south of Bethlehem, on Friday after the noon prayer. A number of other international and Palestinian activists joined after they played a soccer game at the path of the wall in Wadi Neiss.At least two hundred Palestinians, accompanied by a number of Israeli and International peace activists marched to the confiscated land in Artas village, south of Bethlehem, on Friday after the noon prayer. A number of other international and Palestinian activists joined after they played a soccer game at the path of the wall in Wadi Neiss.
The villagers demanded the Israeli army stop bulldozing their land and uprooting their trees. Troops prevented the villagers from entering onto their land and pushed them away.
Several attempts by the villagers and their supporters to break through the army line failed as more reinforcements arrived in the area. Troops took prisoner one of the international protesters and refused to release him, despite a proposal by the protestors to end the demonstration if the activist was released.
Samer Jaber, an Palestinian activist of the Stop the Bleeding of Bethlehem Campaign said there will be many nonviolent actions in several villages in Bethlehem and today’s action will not be last.
Last Saturday, Israeli bulldozers began bulldozing land and uprooting trees in order to prepare for building a sewage system for the benefit of the adjacent Israeli settlement of Efrat, which according to the villagers will badly affect their agriculture.
The settlement is built on land confiscated from Artas, Al-Khader and the nearby villages. This settlement is part of the Gush Etzion settlement bloc, which Israel is planning to keep control of although it is entirely built on occupied land in the West Bank.
The villagers along with international supporters camped at the land for few days before the army stormed their camp and removed the tents on Sunday morning and took prisoner several Israeli peace activists.
In the afternoon, a press conference was held in during which Dr. Mustafa Barghouthi, Minister of Information, stressed the importance of the nonviolent resistance against the wall and settlements.
Following the press conference the local and foreign media left the site, after which Israeli troops charged the villagers and assaulted them after they had replanted the trees uprooted in the morning.
In addition to several others, Dr. Barghouthi was also pushed and beaten by the soldiers.
On Monday afternoon, the Israeli security guards fired on a number of journalists who were covering a nonviolent protest by the villagers.
The security guards opened fire at Nael Shyukhi, Reurters’ reporter and cameraman, and IMEMC’s Ghassan Bannoura.
Troops arrived to the site and took prisoner three of the village’s residents. The three were bailed out four days later pending a court hearing. They were accused of allegedly throwing rocks at the bulldozers, a charge that they vehemently deny.
Adham, one of the three arrestees told IMEMC that they were beaten badly by the Israeli soldiers in the Gush Etzion settlement.