Israeli Occupation Forces today clamped down on a peaceful weekly march which was protesting illegal settlements and the apartheid wall, and which began in support of the proposed exclusion of Israel from FIFA. During the IOF clamp-down in Bil’in village, dozens of Palestinian citizens and foreign peace activists were injured, reportedly suffering from exposure to tear gas.
Dozens of participants in the peaceful march were injured as the IOF fired rubber-coated bullets, tear gas and sound bombs at the demonstration. Even demonstrators on the outskirts of the village were affected, and large tracts of land belonging to Mahmoud Abdulhadi Samara and Ashraf al-Khatib were burnt and destroyed by the soldiers.
Residents of Bil’in, Israeli peace activists and international peace activists all participated in the march, which was organised by the Popular Committee Against the Wall and Settlements in Bil’in.
Once the participants, led by children carrying flowers, arrived at the iron gate, the IOF began to throw sound and gas bombs. Children went close to the apartheid wall, challenged the soldiers and played football nearby. Other participants carried the Palestinian flag and red cards calling for Israel’s expulsion from FIFA, and roamed the streets of the village chanting slogans and songs. They called for national unity, reiterated the need for a strong Palestinian resistance to the occupation, and demanded the release of all prisoners, as well as freedom for Palestine. Protestors also voiced support for the Palestinian delegation to FIFA in light of the pressure it came under to withdraw its demand.
According to Popular Resistance coordinator, Murad Shtewi, the IOF raided the village with a large number of soldiers, reinforced by a military bulldozer, and attacked the demonstration through a thick haze of tear gas, the sound of bombs and both live and rubber bullets. This lead to the shooting of a 20 year old man, who was injured in his left leg and taken by a Palestinian Red Cross ambulance to Rafidia hospital in Nablus.
Witnesses also confirmed that Israeli occupation soldiers broke into several houses where they took up positions to fire at protestors and to target residencies with gas bombs and waste water. A number of local children were injured.
The IOF closed the entrance to the village in the early morning and declared a closed military zone, preventing the entry of media crews and activists, and preventing the delivery of bread from a nearby bakery.