***image2***A demonstration against the devastation caused by the Apartheid Wall was once again met by violence as Occupation forces unleashed tear gas and a flurry of brutality against the villagers of Bilâin, in the west of Ramallah district. Bilâin, and the neighboring village of Saffa, will soon be surrounded by the Apartheid Wall, with up to half their farmland isolated behind it.
Occupation bulldozers have been uprooting trees and destroying farmland in the area for nearly two months, with the route of the Wall planned to run right between the two villages, approximately six kilometers inside the West Bank. The Wall will annex around 2500 dunums of the villagesâ agricultural land, much of it to be used for expansion of the nearby settlements of Menora and Mattityahu East.
Around 200 villagers of all ages assembled outside Bilâin mosque and marched through the village to the fields where the Occupation bulldozer was at work. Prevented from going further by Occupation Forces, the villagers assembled at the edge of fields of olive trees that until recently belonged to them. In February the Occupation confiscated the land and proceeded to raze it to prepare for the next phase of the Apartheid Wall.
As the villagers chanted slogans demanding an end to the Occupation and the Wall, the Occupation Forces ripped down a Palestinian flag and shot several tear gas canisters into the midst of the crowd, forcing it to disperse and retreat towards the village. At least one villager was reported seriously injured.
***image3***Undeterred, demonstrators bravely returned to the site; their presence forcing the bulldozer to stop work temporarily. A tense stand-off suddenly erupted as Occupation Forces physically attacked a number of demonstrators, beating them to the ground with batons and rifle butts. More tear gas was fired, along with sound bombs, as villagers fled to safety before the younger protestors responded by throwing stones towards the Occupiers and bulldozer.
Bilâin and Saffa villages have been central figures in the resistance movement over recent months. When Occupation Forces first tried to enter the village in February, hundreds of defiant demonstrators forced them to retreat. Live ammunition was fired as the entire village came out in protest, with many villagers seriously wounded and several detained and beaten. Soldiers entered the village at night, detonating shock grenades and encircling houses. The Occupation Forces eventually tried to ensure their control of the land, and demonstrations have been held since on an almost daily basis.
Villagers of all ages remain determined to stand firm in resistance of the Apartheid Wall and its theft of their land, even in the face of extreme danger and the horrific violence meted out by the racist Occupation Forces.