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ISM Update From Palestine

1. Tour of Historical Sites Threatened with Demolition in Hebron's Old City- The Hebron Rehabilitation Committee

2. Palestinian Christian Children Cross Checkpoints in Historic Pilgrimage to Jerusalem- Holy Land Christian Ecumenical Foundation (HCEF)

3. Press conference on the use of IDF Special-Ops unit as agent provocateurs- The Alternative Information Center

4. Hiding behind the olive tree Written- A personal account of the April 28th demonstration Written by Alvin


1. Tour of Historical Sites Threatened with Demolition in Hebron's Old City

The Hebron Rehabilitation Committee would like to invite you to visit the site of Tel Rumaida, in the Old City of Hebron, Thursday, the5th of May. This Historical site is under a risk of destruction by the Israeli Army.

On the 11th of February 2005 the Israeli army issued a decree concerning creating a new road for Israeli settlers connecting Tel Rumaida settlement with the other settlements in Hebron -Beit Romano, Beit Hadasa, and Abraham Avinu.

The proposed road would confiscate lands owned by several Palestinian families, in addition to part of a Muslims' Cemetery, Alsaqawati Muslim Shrine, and Am Aljadeda "Water Spring" which all belong to the Islamic Waqf in Hebron. Creating this road would also involve demolishing parts of historical houses, Muslims' graves, uprooting long-lived olive trees and historical monuments in Tel Rumaida area, which has been known as a famous archeological site for centuries.

The road will enlarge the Israeli colonial area and will increase Israeli control in Hebron City escalating already existing tensions and adding to the pressure on Palestinian residents to leave.

Objections raised on behalf of the Hebron Rehabilitation Committee with the legal advisor to the Israeli government on the 22 of February 2005 were rejected.

Attorney Shlomo Lecker filed an appeal with the Israeli Supreme Court. The Supreme court refused to give a ceasing order immediately, in breach with its traditional policy, postponing the decision until after the Jewish holidays.

The program for the 5th of May : - 09:35 — 09:45 Gathering in front of Alnatsha Glass Factor (kas Jora St.) - 09:45 — 10:00 Heading to Hebron Rehabilitation Committee's office (Hebron Old City) - 10:00 — 10:05 Welcoming at the Office of HRC - 10:05 — 10:20 Land Defence Committee Presentation - 10:20 — 11:00 Foot tour in the old market - 11:00— 11:15 Leaving to Tel Rumaida Area by cars - 1 1:15 — 12:00 Tour in Tel Rumaida Area on foot For confirmation please call at: Tel: 02 2226993/4 Fax: 02 2255640 Mob. No. 059 758895

2. Palestinian Christian Children Cross Checkpoints in Historic Pilgrimage to Jerusalem Holy Land Christian Ecumenical Foundation (HCEF)

4 May, 2005

On 6 May, 2005, In partnership with Western and Holy Land Churches, The Holy Land Christian Ecumenical Foundation (HCEF) will bring 1,000 children (Orthodox, Catholic, and Protestant) from 50 churches to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and other holy sites to celebrate Easter.

Christian children who have never been permitted access to Jerusalem Holy sites will travel on buses from villages and cities from 13 West Bank regions including Jerusalem, Ramallah, Birzeit, Jifna, Aboud,Taybeh, Zababdeh, Nablus, Ein Arik, Bethlehem, Beit Sahour, Beit Jala. Children from each geographical area will wear different a colored hat. As young ambasadors for peace and freeedom, the children will release birds, sing songs, and carry banners which call for justice and an end to Israeli state violence against and isolation of Palestinian people,and demand their right to freely worship in the Holy Land. See program below. In a unity of support from Western and Eastern Churches, and from Orthodox, Catholic, and Protestant traditions, the sponsoring organizations include: the Christian Brethren, the Custody of the Holy Land (Franciscan), Pontifical Mission for Palestine, and Caritas Jerusalem.

Hour Activity 8:00 – 9:00 Busses arrival at the Mount of Olives 9:00 – 10:00 March to Gethsemane 10:00 – 11:30 Gethsemane visit and program 11:30 – 2:00 6 busses go to the Jaffa Gate and from there the children march to visit the Holy Sepulcher and from there to St. Peter In Gallicantu 11:30 – 2:00 The other 6 busses will start on from visiting St. Peter in Gallicantu and then to the Holy Sepulcher 2:00 – 3:30 St. Anne's Church: Lunch Break and visit.

___________________________________________________________________ 3. Press conference on the use of IDF Special-Ops unit as agent provocateurs AIC (Alternative Information Center) 03/05/05

In response to the use of IDF Special-Ops unit as agent provocateurs in a non-violent demonstration in Bil'in – a press conference was held today in the AIC offices in Jerusalem.

Background: On Thursday, April 28 2005, a 1000 strong Palestinian-Israeli peace demonstration in the West Bank village of Bil'in, was violently dispersed by the IDF.

As video footage screened in the press conference shows, members of a special-ops unit, disguised as Palestinians, infiltrated the non- violent demonstration. Acting as agent provocateurs they began throwing stones. When exposed, members of the unit shot in the air, attacked the protestors and arrested Riad Barnat and Aliyan Abu Rahma whom are still imprisoned.

Commenting on the new tactics used by the military, IDF commander in the Bil'in area admitted that: "Stone-throwing by the undercover forces is part of the way in which we operate in such instances." (Haaretz, 1/5/05).

Comments in the Press Conference:

Uri Avnery of Gush Shalom describe the unfolding of violence in the demonstration: "The front line of our demonstration was violently attacked by a unit, which was later confirmed by Israel to be a special unit of the prison services, trained to suppress prison riots...this unit was obviously trained to be particularly violent". He added that "This (use of the) new unit demonstrates that the Sharon government continues to view settlers as allies and the peace camp as the enemy..."

MK Dr Jamal Zahalka stated that the police and IDF used violence in order to deter Israelis from coming to demonstrate with Palestinians. Furthermore, the use of `Mistaravim' units was intended to create doubt and confusion amongst the Palestinian protesters as to the identity of the Israeli participants. Dr Zahalka presented his intention to raise the issue in the Knesset when it reconvenes next week "I want to ask who gave the orders to use this special unit, who gave the order to throw stones, who gave the order to use violence". He added that "Israel is trying to close the path of non-violence for is easier for Israel to deal with violence, it's a language they understand...They don't know how to deal with joint Palestinian-Israeli resistance".

Jonathan Polack of Anarchists Against the Fence commented: "Bilin has lost 60% of its land due to new settlement expansion and holds daily non-violent demonstrations. The government oppresses these demonstrations with the harshest measures. What does Israel want, more suicide bombers?" Questioning the reasoning for the use of such extensive violence, Sharon Dolev, an Israeli activist whom was shot in her stomach by IDF with salt-bullets from a distance of several meters, described her feeling "I was very angry after being shot. What bothered me most was realizing the hatred of the shooter, who watched me as he fired. What kind of education does he receive that creates so much hatred?"

Expansion of Settlement – is not disengagement

Contrary to the agreements between Sharon and the Bush administration, and under the guise of the disengagement from Gaza - thousands of new housing units are being built in settlement through out the OPT.

Over 2000 new apartments are currently under construction in the settlements of Matityahu, Modi'in Ilit and Kiryat Sefer, on confiscated land belonging to the villages of Bil'in, Deir Qaddis, Saffa, Ni'lin and Harbata.

60% of the lands – 2300 dunums, 600 acres - belonging to the village of Bil'in; have been expropriated by the Israeli government in order to enable the construction of these settlements. Thus forcing the villagers build their own homes and schools on purchased land belonging to neighboring villages to their east.

The separation fence being built on the outskirts of the village - 5 km east of the green line – follows the municipal boundaries of the settlements, offering more room for future expansion; blatantly contradicting the Israeli official position that the route of the fence was determined by `security' considerations. Rather the facts on the ground prove otherwise, those posed to gain from the current route are the real-estate developers and the local settlers.

Modi'in Ilit, is an exclusively Jewish Orthodox city is one of the fastest growing settlements. 12,500 housing units are planned to be built there in the next few years. Currently with 26,000 settlers the city is planed to reach 60,000 in 5 years, all built on expropriated land from the surrounding Palestinian villages.

State Violence

The demonstrations and non-violent direct actions of Palestinian, Israeli and internationals in the village of Bil'in against the construction if the settlements and the segregation fence in the last couple months have been met by a violent response of the IDF and police including: shootings, arrests and beatings, and daily incursions into the village.

On Thursday, 28/4, two special-ops units were deployed in the demonstration. `Messada' unit, belonging the Shabas- the Israeli Prison Service and currently put under command of the IDF general staff, and the `Mistaravim' – under cover unit of the border police.

The use of the units resulted, A 12 injured, and 6 protesters arrested, 4 of them –Israelis- released, and 2 Palestinians still in detention.

The demonstration dispersed as part of negotiations between the protesters and the IDF in which the demonstrators were promised that the arrested would be released if the disperse. This commitment of the military commander was not fulfilled.

The un-proportional use of force by the Military has resulted in the villages of Biddu, Beit Surik and Beit Duko during the months of March-April 2004, in 5 demonstrators killed by the IDF.

Live ammunition was used against the demonstrators this Sunday in joint Palestinian-Israeli demonstration to celebrate the 1st of May, causing shrapnel injuries to one child.

Since the beginning of the demonstrations in the village, tens of protestors have been arrested and detained amongst them children, a house has been burned, soldiers have stolen money from residents, and daily incursions of the military into the village have made life unbearable.

Israel has consistently demanded from Palestinians from using violence in order to achieve political goals. However, as the popular resistance against the fence has shown, non-violent demonstrators are met with violence by the IDF.

4. Hiding behind the olive tree- A personal account of the April 28th demonstration Written by Alvin 3/5/05

The day had been exceptionally violent; thus it came as no surprise that I was hiding behind an olive tree along with another international, Alvin, and Achmad, a 12 year old Palestinian boy. Taking cover had become routine by this point in the day, with the demonstration against the wall having wound down, leaving only the Shebab in the olive groves to throw stones, with a few internationals along to make sure the Israeli Border Police know that someone is watching how they behave.

The demonstration had started out peacefully enough, with a few hundred Palestinians, and a handful of Israelis and internationals gathering at the mosque at midday. We proceeded to march to the site of the construction of the annexation wall, which when completed will confiscate half of the village lands, or 2300 dunums, to the Israeli "side."

Israeli Border Police met the demonstration a few hundred meters from the construction site, and almost immediately without provocation opened fire on the crowd with sound bombs, rubber bullets, and tear gas. The tear gas was the worst, and I nearly vomited twice because of it. Demonstrators scattered, and began to pull back to the village, where for the next several hours we faced hails of rubber bullets, tear gas canisters fired directly at the crowd, and the occasional live ammunition. It is this last weapon which was the pinnacle of terror as we stood behind the olive tree.

Why exactly we were behind he tree I do not know. John had retreated there out of a desire for shade and something to lean on rather than fear. With the Border Police scuffling in and amongst the olive trees several hundred meters away and seeing the more experienced international behind a tree, I delayed my plans to take pictures of the front line Shebab, and retreated to the tree, gazing between the branches at two Israeli soldiers setting up sniping positions about 200 meters away, on the opposing hill.

Things were tense between the soldiers and Shebab. Just moments before we witnessed one Border Policeman throw down his helmet and gun, and raise his hands in the air, appearing to be challenging a Shebab to a fist fight. The Shebab responded by continuing to throw stones.

Achmad joined us behind the tree. He was a bright boy who met me regularly in the fields with handfulls of rubber bullets and empty tear gas canisters. This time he pulled a cylindrical rubber plug from his pocket and handed it to me with a big grin. The next moments seemed to lose all lineality of time. Shots began to ring out, and Alvin and I began discussing whether they were "live" or "rubber." The air became distorted, almost as if looking through glass, and a crack rang out as the olive tree in front of us exploded, with bits of bark and dust flying into the air amidst the ringing in my ears. Total confusion. I saw Achmad grab his head and scream. He was making noise, so I immediately thought he wasn't seriously injured, and was merely startled by the noise. My attention turned to John, who was grabbing his groin region, exclaiming, "I almost got shot in my….!" Then everything began to move with lightening speed. John pulled down the top of his pants to reveal a small, bleeding cut several inches below his belly button. We both turned to Achmad, who had blood in his hair, and a small trickle running down his ear. John grabbed him and started to carry him.

We ran out from behind the tree and I waved my arms frantically in the air, yelling "Don't shoot! Don't shoot!" I walked with Achmad back to his house, where his father drove him to the hospital.

X-rays later showed a small piece of shrapnel embedded in his head, but the extent of all injuries were minor. We later heard from several Palestinians who were at the scene that the bullet that struck the tree was "hayy," or "live" ammunition. One Palestinian said that the soldier, unable to locate any of the hiding Shebab, saw movement behind the tree and fired at it. He then was preparing to fire again, when he saw us running out carrying someone and yelling, and he lowered his weapon. We later returned to the tree, where we found several places where the bark had been blasted away. Upon closer examination we found small fragments of metal embedded in these indentations, which we collected for later analysis. We figured that the soldier couldn't distinguish that we were internationals. Nevertheless the experience emphasized the necessity of our presence, and the necessity of identifying our presence to everyone involved.

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