Village children gassed while taking refuge from military
International Solidarity Movement | 29 January 2010
Over 20 village residents – including 14 children – were targeted by Israeli soldiers in a volley of tear gas and rubber coated bullets as they took refuge in the Tamimi family house in An Nabi Salih. The residents were not part of the weekly demonstration and children from surrounding houses had gathered there for safety. One boy was hit in the stomach with a gas canister. Five people, children and elderly women, were taken away in ambulances and treated for injuries including tear gas asphyxiation.
Earlier, near 12:30PM, Israeli soldiers blocked the non-violent demonstration as they attempted to reach a spring recently taken by settlers from the near-by Jewish-only Hallamish settlement. Demonstrators slowly advanced a few meters and sat down. Israeli and international activists joined in solidarity. This tactic was repeated many times until soldiers began firing tear gas canisters directly at the demonstrators. As soldiers surrounded the village, shooting tear gas from three sides, a water cannon shooting foul smelling waste-water was deployed.
Just after the water cannon emptied its tanks, the Tamimi house was fired on.
As tear gas canisters and rubber-coated bullets flew through windows of the house, Red Crescent and activist volunteers responded to the attack, helping women and children outside to safety. In all, nine women, one man and 14 children were caught inside during the attack.
The same house was targeted one week ago when tear gas and sound grenades broke through the windows. Seven people were gassed but no injuries were serious. As the women and children exited the house, soldiers told them to go back in. They refused due to large amounts of tear gas lingering inside and the soldiers hit them. One woman was arrested.
This brutal repression of a non-violent demonstration and targeting innocent bystanders comes as the Israeli government attempts to squash the popular resistance through illegitimate arrests and disproportionate force.
According to one An Nabi Salih resident, the demonstration’s goal was to reach a spring taken by Israeli settlers, but the over all motivation for ongoing demonstrations is to stop the constant advance of the Hallamish settlement onto Palestinian land. Residents say that since 1977 the settlement has taken half of the village’s farm-land, burning or cutting down trees tended by the village for generations.
Approximately six weeks ago, a group of Halamish settlers took over the spring located in privately owned Palestinian land in between the village and the settlement. Since then, and despite the fact that ownership of the land undisputed, the army began preventing Palestinians from accessing the area.