Abdullah Abu Rahma, coordinator for the popular committee in Bil’in, recently spoke to us about Basem Abu Rahma. Basem had participated in actions against the Wall since they began in the village in 2005 until 17 April, 2009, when he was martyred at age 31 during his last protest in Bil’in.

Basem Abu Rahma was from a poor family and did not finish secondary school. His father passed away some time ago, leaving him along with his mother and five brothers and sisters. He worked inside the ’48 until the second Intifada broke out, after which he began to work in the West Bank as a laborer in various workshops.

Within the village, Basem was well loved and known for being carefree and helpful. If a house was in mourning following the death of a loved one, Basem was there to assist the family of the deceased. Although he himself never married, he always helped with organizing and preparing festivities for local weddings. He was given the nickname “elephant” on account of his strength and the fact that he would always carry others on his shoulders during wedding parties and celebrations. He also had a keen love for animals. Abdullah recounted a particular story, when, by chance, Basem had a dove that he decided to release. But instead of flying away, it returned and waited for him on his bed.

Basem was also known for being active against the Wall. He participated in actions in Bil’in as well as in other villages along with his younger brother, Ashraf Abu Rahma. It was his brother who was arrested, handcuffed, blindfolded and then shot in the foot during a demonstration in Ni’lin.

Abdullah talked about Basem’s role in Bil’in’s struggle,

“His first injury happened at a Bil’in demonstration in 2005 when, and this was famous, a group of border police attacked him with sticks and broke up the first march. Pictures of this hang in our homes as a first reminder of our first march.”

He went on to recount what happened on 17 April,

“[Basem] came in the morning at 11 o clock and we began preparing for the demonstration. It was prisoner’s day and we had a number of posters and we thought to paste them on iron shields. Basem came as we were preparing and helped us and asked about this arrested person and that and we discussed the prisoners. Then, after the Friday prayers were finished, the march set out. That day, Basem was wearing a noticeable jersey; it was neon colored and a thousand people could see it.

“We arrived at the Wall, and we were using the iron shields that resemble those used by the police, and entered the gate. Basem was standing to the right, at the top of the hill, where he always stood. A group of youth went inside the Wall, carrying the shields and yelling that they wanted to enter their lands, and at that moment the army opened fire with gas bombs. Basem began to yell at the soldiers in Arabic to stop firing, he yelled more than once and we heard his voice.

“The soldiers had barely finished firing when we heard a yell and saw him Basem fall to the ground. He rolled over four times and then remained on the ground. Firing then continued as his friends tried to help him. He was dying and couldn’t make a sound.

“The bomb which wounded him was fired from a high-powered launcher and had dug a hole in the middle of his chest, some 10 cm above his lung. He was bleeding heavily and tear gas continued to fill the area. It was difficult for people trying to help him to get close because of the gas. There was no ambulance, so we put him in a private car. We tried to save him and drove to the village of Dir Ibzi’ (between Bil’in and Ramallah) where the medics would transport him to the hospital. We knew that he was dead, but we did what we could. We arrived at the hospital, where the doctors crossed their arms and told us that Basem was dead.

“This was the most difficult moment for us, and we had to bring the news to his family, relatives and friends that we had lost our brother and comrade.”

When he was shot, Basem was standing east of the Wall, facing the army who was positioned to the west. There was not more than 30 meters between them.

The type of gas bomb that killed Basem has a range of 800 meters. It is not visible when it is fired or when it is in the air. At 300 – 400 meters, it explodes internally in order to add velocity. With a plastic or fiberglass head, the canisters resemble shells, not tear gas bombs, and are deadly when not fired into the air. Basem’s cousin was hit in the head with one of these rounds; he was nearly disabled and spent several months in a care center. Tristan Anderson was also hit in the head with one of these canisters at Ni’lin and has been in a coma for more than a month.

These projectiles are not the only new weapons employed by Occupation forces in the repression of demonstrations. Several months ago, we documented the use of a new type of bullet, often fired by silenced weapons, that shatters after penetrating the skin and has resulted in 15 bone-breaking injuries. The most active in demonstrations and protest, youth are being intentionally targeted, and dozens have been seriously injured and 16 killed in anti-Wall actions.

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