RAMALLAH (Ma’an) – Israeli forces Friday suppressed weekly marches held in the villages of Billin and Kafr Qaddum in the occupied West Bank districts of Ramallah and Qalqiliya. In Bilin, the weekly march, which occur every Friday to protest the Israeli separation wall and illegal settlements, was launched in solidarity with the Bedouin village of Umm al-Hiran which was violently raided by Israeli forces on Wednesday, leaving a local teacher and an Israeli police officer killed, before Israeli forces carried out home demolitions in the village.
The demonstration was also centered on protesting American President Donald Trump’s support of moving the US embassy to Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
Palestinian and international solidarity activists held up Palestinian flags and signs condemning the potential embassy move and threatening an escalation of the resistance if such a decision was made.
As the demonstrators marched through the streets, they called for national unity, resisting the Israeli occupation, and releasing all Palestinians held in Israeli prisons.
The popular resistance committee’s spokesperson Ratib Abu Rahma called upon Muslim, Arab, and all nations of the world to stop the new US administration from moving the embassy, while also urging Palestinian factions to unify their efforts to defend Palestine.
When the protesters reached the western part of the village near the separation wall, Israeli forces prevented them from marching on, declaring the area a military post and firing rubber bullets, sound bombs, and plastic bullets at protesters.
Abu Rahma noted that Israeli forces detained Palestinian activist Ahmad Abu Rahma during the protest, but released him afterwards.
Bilin is one of the most active Palestinian villages in peaceful organized opposition against Israeli policies, as residents have protested every Friday for 11 consecutive years, and have often been met with tear gas, rubber-coated steel bullets, and stun grenades from Israeli forces.
Story continues below. Like Bilin, the village of Kafr Qaddum in the northern West Bank district of Qalqiliya used their weekly march to condemn the raid on Umm al-Hiran and also drew attention to the potential move of the US embassy to Jerusalem. Coordinator of the popular resistance in the village, Murad Shteiwi said that hundreds of village residents participated in the protest, along with international solidarity activists. Protesters held signs that read “Jerusalem will only be the capital of Palestine,” and shouted slogans denouncing the nearly half-century long occupation of the West Bank. Shteiwi told Ma’an that violent clashes erupted with Israeli forces, who had entered the village with an Israeli bulldozer and Israeli military jeeps, and “attacked” the protesters who responded by throwing rocks and burning tires. He added that no detentions were carried out and no injuries were reported.
An Israeli army spokesperson told Ma'an she would look into reports on clashes in both of the villages. Residents of Kafr Qaddum began staging weekly protests in 2011 against land confiscations, as well as the closure of the village's southern road by Israeli forces. The road, which has been closed for 14 years, is the main route to the nearby city of Nablus, the nearest economic center.
The Israeli army blocked off the road after expanding the illegal Israeli settlement of Kedumim in 2003, forcing village residents to take a bypass road in order to travel to Nablus, which has extended the travel time to Nablus from 15 minutes to 40 minutes, according to Israeli rights group B’Tselem. Hundreds of Palestinians have been detained during the demonstrations since their start in 2011, and at least 84 protesters have been injured by live fire, including 12 children, Shteiwi told Ma'an during a similar protest last year. Some 120 others have been detained at demonstrations and were subsequently held in Israeli custody for periods ranging between four and 24 months, Shteiwi said at the time, adding that they have paid fines totaling some 25,000 shekels (approximately $6,488). Over the course of five years, an elderly protester was killed after suffering from excessive tear gas inhalation, one youth lost his eyesight, and another his ability to speak, he added. Israeli forces last month became the focus of international condemnation when Israeli soldiers wearing matching plain clothes and black ski masks detained a seven-year-old Palestinian during a weekly protest in the village. A video of the incident was taken by a volunteer of B’Tselem and quickly went viral. Rights groups and activists pointed out that the video seems to show the soldiers using the child as a human shield during clashes.
B’Tselem strongly condemned the incident at the time, saying that “it does not take a lawyer to know that the detention of a seven-year-old child by soldiers, keeping him by their side as they shoot at his friends, is deplorable and utterly unacceptable."