***image1***Over 150 local activists protested Friday in al-Maâsara and the neighbouring villages against the construction of the illegal Apartheid Wall and settlements on the lands of the nine intertwined villages to the south of Bethlehem. Protestors walked through the villages towards the construction site of the Wall, but as every Friday for the past few years, they were intercepted by dozens of soldiers who had again cut off the main road with a barbwire fence.
Protestors waved flags and chanted slogans through a mobile sound system, while some accompanied the demonstration on horses in an expression of pride of the ongoing popular resistance in the face of increasing crackdowns.
Women from the villages held posters of their imprisoned sons and detained activists from the Bethlehem districts, leading chants demanding the release of all political prisoners. Senior Palestinian officials gave speeches expressing their support for the Popular Committeeâs commitment to resisting Israeli colonial policies and its success in mobilizing continuous support from local, international, and Israeli activists.
Fridayâs demonstration, which commemorated the foundation of the Fateh movement, comes following threats issued two days ago to the Popular Committee warning that its members would be blacklisted and arrested if the protests in al-Maâsara continued in 2010. Therefore, the soldiers, who had taken position behind the barbwire, appeared more tense than usual. One soldier repeatedly aimed his weapon at the protestors from a hill overlooking the street. At one point soldiers pushed into the crowd, when children attempted to remove the barbwire.
As the aggression increased, the Israeli army fired tear gas and sound bombs at the crowd and five military vehicles entered deep into the village of al-Maâsara. Soldiers continued to shoot teargas for an hour and remained at the entrance of the village until later in the afternoon.
One child was hit by a sound bomb and had to be carried away while soldiers were still shooting. Several protestors suffered gas inhalation, and other injuries were reported.