Damian Clarke's Update From Palestine(6)
Damian Clarke is a 31 year old from Miramar in Wellington, NZ and is currently in Palestine under training with the International Solidarity Movement - a group of internationalists campaigning for peace in the Middle East. Damian is writing to Scoop regularly about his experiences.
Yesterday evening I left Marda for an even smaller town called Budrus with two other ISM activists. Budrus is a mountain village in the West Bank struggling not to have their land and their livelihoods expropriated by the construction of the apartheid wall. Through numerous demonstrations the people of Budrus have thus far resisted construction of the wall on their side of the green line (the 1967 Israel/Palestine border). The army and bulldozers were back and our presence had been requested.
Sudqi Khalaf of Budrus, Palestine. Shot in mouth with rubber bullet.
Women of Budrus join the march.
Israeli Soldier throwing a sound bomb.
At 8am this morning we met in the streets with the men and boys of the village, a few more ISMers and group of Israeli peace activists. We marched toward the village olive groves, the village women joined us at an intersection on the way. When we got to the olive groves we were welcomed with sound bombs and Israeli soldiers who were trying to block the path of the villagers from their land. We managed to pass the soldiers lines and get to the edge of the olive groves where we stopped. A stand off ensued with the soldiers for a few hours. The sound of our chanting drowned out the sound of the chainsaws and machinery cutting down and taking away conifers and olive trees only about thirty meters away. Some of the olive trees in Palestine are over 2,000 years. The Israeli soldiers threatened that if we didn’t move away they would use teargas, but this didn’t happen. The standoff ended peacefully when the Israeli Occupation Forces agreed that work on the wall would not cross the green line today. The army backed off and we went back to the village.
Not too long after arriving back at the village we heard shots being fired so we headed out again to see what was happening. There were a number of boys with slings throwing rocks at the Israeli Occupation Forces from around the village school. The soldiers and border guards were responding with rubber bullets, sound bombs, tear gas and live rounds. When we arrived we found the soldiers firing from the protective walls of an old small disused mosque.
We (internationals and Israeli activists) positioned ourselves to a side where we could see the soldiers and the boys without involving ourselves directly. At one point a tear gas canister was thrown back toward the soldiers. A few minutes later a very distraught Israeli activist came and told us that someone was injured. It was 44 year old Sudqi Khalaf. He is a father of twelve. He had heard that his sons were involved in the stone throwing so had gone to fetch them. When he got there a teargas canister was thrown toward him, so he threw it back toward the soldiers. He was then shot in the mouth with a rubber bullet. It broke three of his top teeth and one bottom tooth. It also busted up his upper lip so that he needed stitches. I have just now come back from visiting him at his house. He’s already been to hospital in Ramallah and has a wound dressing across his top lip. The wound is still weeping and he needs to mop it a lot, but it didn’t stop him drinking his sweet tea through a straw and having a cigarette.
After the demonstration in the vlage the Occupation Forces drove through the village in humvees and jeeps. Palestinian youths hastily erected barricades of rocks and rubbish skips, but the army passed through these easily, though they had to also face a barrage of stones on their way past.
It’s quiet now. The confrontation made the Israeli Arabic news. Apparently they’re going to halt construction on the apartheid wall here for a while until things settle down a bit. Tomorrow may be quiet.
Kia kaha - Damian Clarke