On Friday, 21 Feb. 2020, at around 12:30 P.M., Palestinians held a demonstration in the village of Kufur Qaddoum to protest the military closure of their access to the road that connects the village to the city of Nablus. The residents have held these protests on a weekly basis since 2011, when their access to the road was cut off following the expansion of the nearby settlement of Kedumim, forcing them since then to take a long, circuitous route. The residents marched towards the blocked entrance and stopped near the last house in the village. During the march, clashes developed and some protesters torched tires and threw stones at soldiers, who fired rubber-coated metal bullets and tear gas at them.
About half an hour later, a military bulldozer drove towards the village from the direction of the settlement, picking up rocks and tires Palestinians had placed on the road to obstruct the soldiers. At some point, the driver accelerated and started pushing large boulders towards the demonstrators, including youths and children. The protesters, among them journalists covering the demonstration, started running to escape the boulders hurtling their way. The bulldozer stopped abruptly and began to draw back.
One of the boulders that the driver pushed towards the demonstrators hit journalist Muhammad ‘Enaya in the legs. He fell over and lost his helmet, which rolled down the road. ‘Enaya’s camera fell to the ground and broke. Several young men hurried over to pick him up and carried him away. Ten-year-old Muamen Shteiwi was standing by his house watching the procession when he, too, was hit by a boulder. He fell over, managed to get up and, with the help of a young man, avoided another boulder rolling towards him at the last second. Yet another boulder crashed into an ambulance parked down the road with the driver inside it, damaging the front bumper and a headlight. A private car parked nearby was lightly damaged.
The young men put the injured ‘Enaya in the ambulance, but before the driver could take off, soldiers fired tear gas canisters that landed around the ambulance. The medics transferred ‘Enaya to another ambulance, which took him to a hospital in Qalqilia. An X-ray found a fracture in his left ankle and torn tendons and bruising in his right leg. ‘Enaya was discharged the next day.
In response to footage published on Israeli news website Ynet, the IDF Spokesperson’s Unit claimed that “the footage was filmed at a sharp incline and edited to play at a higher speed than the original”. However, B’Tselem has the original footage, which clearly shows that the video posted online was not sped up and that the driver of the bulldozer did intentionally push boulders at the demonstrators.
Over the years, B’Tselem has documented the military’s violent oppression of the weekly protests held by the residents of Kufur Qaddoum. Incidents include shooting live rounds at demonstrators, including children; setting dogs on protesters; detaining minors; posting notices threatening minors throughout the village; using a child as a human shield; and severely assaulting journalists. These actions are not unusual: they are part of an official, illegal policy to deter village residents from legitimately protesting against the violation of their rights, including taking part in demonstrations.
The day after the incident, B’Tselem field researcher Abdulkarim Sadi collected testimonies from several residents who were at the scene:
Medic ‘Assem Kamal, 42, a married father of five from the village, related:
I was waiting by the Red Crescent ambulance in case any people were injured and had to be treated or evacuated. About half an hour after the procession started, I suddenly saw some young guys, older residents and journalists running west, towards the village center. The other medics were inside the ambulance and I was the only one standing outside. I saw a military bulldozer driving after the young men and pushing large boulders.
People were trying to run away from the bulldozer, which was driving fast, and from the boulders it was shoving their way. Suddenly, the bulldozer braked, and the boulders kept rolling towards the young men down the street, which leads into the village. As everyone was fleeing, I saw the journalist Muhammad ‘Enaya fall down after being hit by a boulder that the bulldozer had pushed. The bulldozer drew back.
I ran over to the injured journalist. His camera and all his other things were lying about broken. Together with the young guys, we picked him up and carried him about 20 meters to the ambulance. When we got there, I saw that another boulder had crashed into the front of the ambulance. I later heard a boulder had hit one of the children, Muamen Shteiwi.
Another boulder crashed into the back left wheel of my Mitsubishi pickup truck and caused damage. I parked there before the procession began because I thought it was a safe spot and that there was no way the army would get there. The clashes always take place about 500 meters away.
The excessive force the army used with the bulldozer was almost lethal. It could have ended in disaster. The young guys emerged without serious injuries by the grace of God alone. The soldiers didn’t make do with the bulldozer, but also fired large amounts of tear gas canisters and “rubber” bullets.
In a testimony given while still in hospital, Journalist Muhammad ‘Enaya, 47, a married father of two from Qalqiliyah, recounted how one of the boulders hit him:
I was standing by the side of the road with ‘Abdallah, a volunteer for B’Tselem, filming the demonstration. A group of soldiers came over to us and ordered us to leave.
We moved about 400 meters away. I kept on filming the demonstration from the roadside. I paused the video camera for a moment and set up my tripod to take some still shots. Suddenly, I saw a military bulldozer coming from the east. It was speeding towards us, pushing large boulders with its blade. Those were a few terrifying moments. I tried to protect myself by drawing back towards the village and to keep filming at the same time, but the bulldozer kept coming fast and there was no time, so I just started running to save myself from the bulldozer and the boulders it was pushing.
A boulder hit me and knocked me down. The helmet fell off my head and rolled down the road. My camera and tripod fell and shattered. I immediately felt sharp pain in both legs and in my back. The medics came over and carried me to an ambulance that was parked about 20 meters away. They gave me first aid there and then took me to hospital in another ambulance, because a boulder had hit the first one and damaged its front bumper. In the hospital I was examined and X-rayed. They found I had a fracture in my left ankle and bruising and torn tendons in my right leg. I’m still in hospital for treatment and follow-up.
I was very surprised by the speed at which the boulders the bulldozer was pushing rolled down the hill. They could have killed or severely injured someone. The way the army used the bulldozer was violent and excessive. It was an amazing sight that I’d never seen before. I’ve been covering the marches in Kafr Qadum for several months and am used to seeing an Israeli bulldozer clear away the rocks and obstructions, but it’s the first time I’ve witnessed something like what happened yesterday.
Muamen Shteiwi, 10, said in his testimony:
I was standing in front of our house, which is near the spot where the procession starts every week. I was watching the demonstrators. Suddenly, I saw guys running down the street. I panicked when I saw everyone running towards me. At first, I didn’t exactly understand what they were running from. Then I saw a bulldozer driving fast and pushing big rocks in front of it.
I was so panicked that instead of running into our yard, I ran down the hill with everyone else. After I ran a few meters, I felt the rocks rolling towards me. They made a loud noise against the ground. A rock crashed into me and knocked me over. After that, another rock came rolling at me. It would have squashed me if one of the guys hadn’t helped me jump up and move out of the way.
I was scraped on my left hand and right leg. The guys picked me up and carried me to an ambulance that was parked nearby. The medics checked me and made sure I was okay. Thank God the rocks didn’t crush me. Then I went home, very scared. My mother was terrified when she heard what had happened to me.