Trying to stop the destruction of land in Biddu
We awoke this morning at 5:30 (Palestinian time) to the sights of four bulldozers and many soldiers beginning work, cutting down trees and destroying the land here in Biddu. By 7AM people began to converge at the local council and by 7:30 we had reached the worksite. Due to the level of violence directed at such nonviolent protests in the past, it was decided that it might help if internationals were at the front of the march as we approached the soldiers and the worksite.
Upon reaching the worksite we were confronted by a group of soldiers who within a matter of 10 seconds fired tear gas and concussion grenades at the peaceful march. Demonstrators quickly dispersed and the one who remained, our local coordinator, was immediately arrested, taken by soldiers into the hills and badly beaten with soldiers’ batons. He along with another man who was arrested, were both released in the middle of the day.
The overwhelmingly violent presence of soldiers, somewhere near 100, combined with up to seven heavy machines destroying the land, quickly provoked some of the demonstrators to respond with rock throwing. As the crowd dispersed around the sides of the hill where the work was occurring, soldiers and border police took up sniper positions on the roofs of six local houses and continued firing tear gas, concussion grenades and rubber-coated steel bullets at the crowd.
Part of the demonstration worked its way to a small house on the hillside that was apparently going to be demolished. The soldiers began to beat those who attempted to enter the house and quickly forced 5 Palestinians inside and locked the door. At this point a group of about 18 internationals and Israeli peace activists along with Palestinians attempted to walk up the hillside, arms extended over their heads, and to the soon to be demolished house. Each of our six attempts to reach the house were met with the firing of rubber-coated steel bullets, tear gas, and concussion grenades from the many snipers on the roof tops and the large number of border police standing guard outside the house. Tear gas canisters were fired directly at peoples’ heads. Only 3 days earlier, a 15-year-old boy, Ala’a Kan’an Mahmoud Badwan, suffered a skull fracture after being hit with a tear gas canister in the head.
At around 1PM, soldiers began to fire live ammunition at demonstrators resulting in up to four injuries. They continued using live ammunition until well after 3PM. The military’s attack on people trying to stop the destruction of their land continued for much of the day, occurring in several places at the same time.
By 5:30, when the soldiers began to pull out, in over 14 jeeps, there was tremendous damage done to the landscape, many olive trees destroyed, and up to a half mile scar bulldozed into the hillside and surrounding valley.
The house that was to be demolished, was not, and the people locked inside were released. It is our understanding that a restraining order has been granted against the demolition, and will be ruled on as part of the court’s decision on April 16th. There were over 40 injuries today, 4 from gas inhalation, 4 from live ammunition, and 32 from rubber-coated steel bullets. The youngest person with an injury was 7. He had a rubber-coated steel bullet shot into his lower leg. 4 were taken from the Biddu clinic to the hospital in Ramallah for more intensive treatment. Work will continue tomorrow and the community will be there to resist.
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