International activists target of Bil’in raid


April 4, 2011

RAMALLAH (Ma’an) — Israeli forces entered the central West Bank village of Bil’in on Monday morning, searching homes and harassing residents, reportedly in search of international solidarity activists who often remain in the area to document rights violations.

A spokesperson for the local popular committee said the raid began at 1:30 a.m. and lasted approximately an hour. The official said the homes of village residents Ali Birnat and Khamis Abu Rahma were targeted and searched.

Local committee members attempting to document the raid were prevented from accessing the scene of the searches.

An Israeli military spokeswoman did not immediately return calls seeking comment.

Groups of solidarity activists have for the past year stayed frequently in the village, which hosts the longest running weekly protest, gathering from tens to thousands in support of demands to remove Israel’s separation wall from village land.

The prominent popular resistance committee in the village has organized a yearly conference on popular non-violent resistance, and gained international support for their ongoing initiative.

During the early years of the protests international solidarity activists would join the demonstrations in an effort to mitigate the use of violence against the villagers. The use of high-velocity tear-gas canister launchers have caused death and injury to residents, and solidarity activists say an international presence witnessing and documenting the action often reduces the use of force.

Once activists left the village at the close of the protests, particularly during 2009 and 2010, Israeli forces would enter and detain teens they said were throwing stones at the soldiers attempting to disperse the protest, and later targeted protest leaders for detentions.

Activists began staying overnight in the village to document the overnight arrest campaigns they said were being used to intimidate villagers, who have also launched court actions against the confiscation of land carried out through the construction of the separation wall.

Sixty percent of the village lands now stand on the far side of the wall, and are largely inaccessible but for a gate that opens twice a day allowing farmers to tend crops, without the use of heavy machinery or equipments.

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