I am a political activist who has worked and lived in the West Bank of the Occupied Palestinian Territories. This blog chronicles my time in Palestine and also provides news and analysis about Palestine and the situation on the ground in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.
Sunday, September 18, 2011
Nabi Saleh: Military whistleblower tells of 'indiscriminate' Israeli attacks
below an article from The Independent, which confirms the indiscriminate
attacks by the Israeli Occupation Forces on Palestinian non-violent
demonstrations. In particular, the article discusses the village of An Nabi
Saleh, a village I have spent a lot of time in and confirm that the military
regularly fire on the unarmed and peaceful demonstrations. Despite the
claim by the Israeli military (repeated in this article) that they don't use
live ammunition, I have been in the village participating in the non-violent
demonstrations when the Israeli Occupation Forces have open fired on us with
Military whistleblower tells of 'indiscriminate' Israeli attacks
Troops fired tear gas during a curfew in a West Bank village to stop peaceful demonstrations
Palestinian protesters run from tear gas fired by Israeli troops in Nabi Saleh in January 2010
Israeli troops fired tear gas
indiscriminately and sometimes dangerously to enforce a daytime curfew
inside a West Bank village to stop Palestinians holding a peaceful
demonstration on their own land, a military whistleblower has told The
The soldier's insight into the methods of troops
comes as the Israeli military prepares for demonstrations predicted when
the Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas submits an application for the
recognition of statehood to the UN next week.
testimony also reinforces a report by the human rights agency B'Tselem
which argues that the way Israel deals with protests in the small
village of Nabi Saleh is denying the "basic right" to demonstrate in the
West Bank. The right to demonstrate is enshrined in international
conventions ratified by Israel.
The soldier, a reservist NCO with extensive combat
experience, was among more than 20 soldiers sent into the village more
than two hours before a planned Friday demonstration in July, to try to
quash protests before they began. The protests started in December 2009
after Jewish settlers appropriated a spring on privately-owned Nabi
The reservist, who originally
testified to the veterans' organisation Breaking the Silence, told The
Independent that they went into a house in the village and took a
position on the roof. "The sun was very hot, but we had to keep our
helmets on," he said. "Then some soldiers start getting bored and start
shooting tear gas on people. Every guy who is not in his house or in the
mosque is a target."
He said that 150 rounds of
tear gas or stun grenades were fired during the day and one soldier
boasted that he had fired a tear gas canister which passed within one
centimetre of a resident's head.
prohibit firing canisters directly at people because they have caused
serious injuries in the past. Another soldier travelling with the
whistleblower in a military vehicle out of the village was left with an
unfired tear gas canister.
"He should have
fired it into an open field but we passed a grocery story with some
people outside it with children. After we passed it he just turned round
and fired it at them."
The reservist was given a
week's preparation on the use of stun grenades, rubber bullets and
tear gas. He had been impressed by a four to five -hour visit to the
trainees by the Binyamin Brigade Commander Sa'ar Tzur who addressed
"issues of ethics and human life, not just on our side but on the other
Some soldiers complained about the
strictness of prohibitions – not always honoured, according to the
leaders of the weekly Nabi Saleh protests – on the use of live
ammunition. But Colonel Tzur "was very strict on the fact that these are
the rules and that anyone who breaks them will pay for it".
the battalion officer, a religious West Bank settler, was "exactly the
opposite," he added. "At the base there was a mission statement signed
by the Brigade Commander which said 'we need to maintain the fabric of
life for the civilian population, Israelis and Palestinians.' The
battalion officer crossed out the word 'Palestinians' and all the
soldiers around started laughing."
reservist's testimony supports B'Tselem's s main conclusions, including
that the military makes "excessive use of crowd control weapons,
primarily the firing of tear-gas canisters."
said: "It was very difficult for me. I want to be in the army to defend
my country. On the other hand I saw that the job I was doing did not
have any connection with defending Israel."
said that his unit was called to the village square when the battalion
officer showed around 40 Palestinians and foreign activists a written
order declaring the village a "closed military zone." The soldiers had
earlier heard shouting elsewhere by demonstrators before they were
almost immediately dispersed by border police firing tear gas. The
reservist said the people in the square "were just standing there. The
officer said to the soldiers: 'Everybody should get out of here. The
Palestinians into their homes and the foreigners should get out. Anyone
left should be arrested.' One Palestinian was arrested when a soldier
decided that he had 'looked at him in a way he didn't like'."
well as 35 Palestinian injuries in Nabi Saleh this year, there have
been 80 detentions since the protests began, including of 18 minors,
and protest leader Bassem Tamimi, currently awaiting military trial
based largely on the interrogation of a 14-year-old boy arrested at
home at gunpoint at 2am.
The military said it
has "clear, detailed, and professional guidelines" for the use of tear
gas to disperse "riots", and that after two years of "dangerous and
violent riots" it declared the village a "closed military area" on
Fridays to "prevent these riots before they turn into violent ones".
military's tactics have varied. A 13-year-old Palestinian boy was
seriously injured by a rubber-coated bullet fired at close range during
protracted clashes between armed troops and stone-throwing youths
observed last year by The Independent. Those clashes started when troops
fired tear gas and rubber bullets on the hitherto peaceful march
towards the spring.
The reservist said he had
seen no stones thrown on the day he was there. adding: "If they want to
stop people throwing stones at the spring, why don't [the troops] wait
at the spring? Why are they coming into the village?" He added: "The
headline of the whole Friday, as I see it, if the army won't be in the
village nothing would happen because the demonstration was not violent."