Two teenage Palestinians shot by IDF fire near Nablus – both die

Not long after UNSG BAN Ki-Moon was escorted by Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad in security and relative luxury on a “brief” tour of the West Bank, to see settlements and The Wall, near Ramallah, two teenage Palestinians were shot by Israeli forces in the northern West Bank village of Iraq Burin, south of Nablus.

One boy, 16-year-old Muhammad Ibrahim Qaddous, was shot in the back/chest/stomach in Iraq Burin this afternoon, and pronounced dead upon his arrival, in a private car, at a hospital. According to Al-Jazeera, “Medical sources said that the Red Crescent ambulance sent to collect him was delayed by Israeli forces”.

The other, Ussayed Jamal Abd en-Nasser Qaddous, was shot in the head and was taken by a Palestinian Red Crescent ambulance to a hospital in Nablus, where he was taken into surgery.  There was one report that he, too, had died… but as of 20h45 pm, the Popular Struggle Coordination Committee’s Jonathan Pollack said that the second young man is still in surgery, although in critical condition…

UPDATE: On Sunday morning, it was announced that the second victim, Ussayed, had succumbed to his wounds in a Nablus hospital.

According to Al-Jazeera, the two were cousins.

An email from the Stop the Wall Campaign stated that Mohammad was trying to carry his injured cousin (shot in the head) to safety when he himself was hit in the body, and killed.

Earlier, the Popular Struggle Coordination Committee presented a letter directly to the visiting UNSG, asking that the UN “directly support the right to protest and protects civilian demonstrators from attack and imprisonment”.

In the Stop the Wall email, Coordinator Jamal Juma (himself recently detained for over a month without charges), said that “of the 16 people killed by the Israeli military in connection with anti-Wall protests since 2002, half were under the age of 18”.  Juma added that “during a wave of killings in 2004/2005, eight were killed, then again between July 2008/ April 2009, six were killed … Israel will continue with its shoot-to-kill policy against our children and youth until the international community starts to hold it accountable for its crimes”.

Like Stop the Wall, the Ma’an News Agency is also reporting, here, that live fire was used. CNN’s Kevin Flower said via Twitter that “The #Israel military has yet to comment except to say ‘there was no live fire’…waiting for more info“…

UPDATE: Ma’an News Agency later reported an IDF spokesperson said: “…’live fire was not used. The Palestinians were hurt by rubber bullets used during the incident. It should be noted that gas canisters were used prior to rubber bullets. Israeli officials have recently held extensive negotiations with figures from the area in order to prevent such a clash. The IDF will not allow the existence of violent and illegal riots that put human lives at risk’.   The spokesman added: ‘the commander of the Shomron regional brigade, Itzik Yar, will investigate the event later today’.”  This Ma’an report is posted here.

There were clashes reported between IDF troops and Palestinian civilians earlier in the day, as demonstrators set out to reach their lands near the Israeli settlement of Har Bracha, but were stopped, and then returned to their village.  Palestinian reports say that settlers were also involved.  Afterward, several armoured Israeli Border Police vehicles entered the village, and some boys and young men threw stones. Then, the two cousins were shot…

According to a statement sent by email from the Popular Struggle Coordination Committee, they were shot around 3 pm…

Yesterday (Friday), one international peace activist, Ellen Stark, an American woman, was shot in the wrist, and her bones were shattered, requiring surgery. This happened even before a scheduled demonstration began in the West Bank village of Nabi Saleh.

One Israeli peace activist, Didi Remez, arrived in Nabi Saleh during the demonstration — or the repression of the demonstration — and was shot in the legs with “crowd control” bullets. He reported being shot once. But his colleague, Eyal Nir, later reported on Facebook that “there were nothing unclear in the situation. just the soldiers and us clearly speaking hebrew to them. they shoot Didi around 6-7 times. 3-4 times the hit him. two in the legs” …

Photo of Didi Remez and Eyal Nir just before shooting - Israeli forces visible down the hill

Didi Remez after being wounded and Eyal Nir with Palestinian medics in Nabi Saleh on 19 March 2010

UPDATE: at 20h15 in Jerusalem time, Didi Remez updated on Facebook with this post: “Total of seven plastic bullet hits: two right leg; one testicles; four left leg, including two that broke skin and required stitches. Last week, at same spot, twelve-year-old villager was hit in head and remains brain damaged”.

we ask that the UN directly supports the right to protest and protects civilian demonstrators from attack and imprisonment.

Israeli police defy judicial opinion, vow to break up Israeli anti-occupation demonstration in Sheikh Jarrah

Last Friday afternoon, Israeli police arrested 17 Israeli anti-occupation demonstrators who had crossed the Green Line and assembled in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood of East Jerusalem, where over the last year three families have been thrown out of homes built for them in the early 1950s by the the United Nations agency for Palestinian refugees, UNRWA, on land allocated by the Jordanian authorities who administered the land following the 1948 war that surrounded the creation of the State of Israel.

Jewish (they may not all be Israeli citizens) settlers immediately moved into those three homes, guarded by their own private security organization — and by the Israeli national police and Border Police. The situation in this area is now very tense, but violence has been astonishingly limited.

There have been some verbal confrontations, but the two sides generally make enormous efforts to ignore each other’s presence.

There seems to be no actual threat to the Jewish settlers, other than legal challenges by the Palestinians, and now the protests organized by a new coalition of Israeli activists.

Israeli anti-occupation demonstrators have begun holding Friday afternoon protests there, on a weekly basis over the past several months, in support of the threatened Palestinian families. Last Friday’s arrests may have marked a turning point.

Here is a photo of Didi Remez (from his Facebook site) at the 15 January protest demonstration organized by Israeli anti-occupation activists in solidarity with threatened Palestinian families in Sheikh Jarrah.  In this now-iconic image, Didi Remez is objecting to the arrests made by the Israeli police, and telling them to “Arrest me, too!”.   The police complied –  he was arrested.

Didi Remez protesting to Israeli police - Arrest me too - in Sheikh Jarrah demonstration on 15 January 2010

After all the commotion, a bigger demonstration is expected today.

UPDATE: Here is a photo of the start of today’s demonstration just tweeted by CNN’s Kevin Flower
KevinFlower of CNN photo of Israeli demonstration 22 January 2010

After last Friday’s arrests, in which the head of the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI), Hagai Elad, was among those taken into custody when he simply approached police to attempt to mediate, the demonstrators spent over 36 hours in jail during the Israeli weekend and the Jewish sabbath, before an Israeli judge ruled that the arrests were not warranted.

This Friday demonstration in Sheikh Jarrah has now become the talk of the town — and of elsewhere in the region.

One of the organizers of the weekly Friday Israeli anti-occupation demonstration in Sheikh Jarrah, Didi Remez, has posted a notice about today’s demonstration, saying that “Police have refused to grant license for [this] Friday procession; refusing to provide reasons. The vigil, unequivocally ruled legal and not requiring licence by Jerusalem Justice of the Peace, will take place at 15:00, as usual. Police, however, have warned organizers that, ruling or no ruling, they will forcibly break up the demonstration”.

Didi Remez was one of those arrested last Friday.  He was also reportedly one of the first of some 20 demonstrators arrested today.

Another photo of the Didi Remez at the Friday 15 January 2010 demonstration in Sheikh Jarrah, East Jerusalem.

Didi Remez protesting to Israeli police - Arrest me too - in Sheikh Jarrah demonstration on 15 January 2010

UPDATE: True to their word, the Israeli police broke up the demonstration.  They arrested some 20 Israeli demonstrators, including veteran Israeli politician Yossi Sarid, who told the Ynet website that the arrests were “arbitrary and unruly”. Sarid also said: “I have been following the developments here for the past few months and I have read about what the police did over the past week. I became nauseous and wanted to vomit.”  YNet reported that former Knesset speaker Avraham Burg and Hadash MK Mohammad Barakeh also participated in the demonstration, and that protesters “waved signs reading, ‘Free Sheikh Jarrah’ and chanted, ‘Cowardly settlers, leave the homes at once’.  The YNet story can be read in full here.

Maan photo of police arresting demonstrators in Sheikh Jarrah on 22 Jan 2010

UPDATE: Ben Lynfield has just reported in The Scotsman that “Yehuda Shaul, an activist in the former soldiers’ group Breaking the Silence was dragged away after he led the crowd in a chant of ‘democracy is not built by evicting people from their houses’.” Ben’s article can be read in full here.

Continue reading Israeli police defy judicial opinion, vow to break up Israeli anti-occupation demonstration in Sheikh Jarrah

Israel just releases 17 Israeli human rights activists arrested on Friday in Sheikh Jarrah protest

The new activism by committed Israeli human rights groups who are against the Israeli occupation, and against Israeli injustice to the Palestinians, is impressive.

In the past, the more traditional Israeli protests, by what the Israeli media calls “left-wing” Israelis, usually took place in Tel Aviv or in West Jerusalem.

In the past months, a new coalition of Israeli human rights activists — who have not entered politics — has come to support Palestinians both in the West Bank, and in East Jerusalem. Groups of younger activists from groups like Anarchists Against the Wall have been joined by more established and traditional (but no less committed) groups like Rabbis for Human Rights (RHR) and the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI).

Notable have been the Israeli human rights activism in Sheikh Jarrah, where the first two extended Palestinians were evicted by their homes by Israeli police and Border Police and then almost immediately replaced by young, militant, organized Jewish settlers, at the beginning of August. We have reported on this new form of Israeli — non-violent — activism, and its suppression by Israeli police and Border Police, previously here.

A new tradition has developed [over the past three months] of weekly demonstrations in Sheikh Jarrah on Friday afternoon (just before sundown, and the start of Shabbat).

This past Friday, 17 Israeli human rights activists were arrested by the Israeli police and Border Police — including the Executive Director of ACRI, Hagai El-Ad, and reportedly also the head of Rabbis for Human Rights. They were just released today — after spending almost 40 hours (36 hours, they reported later), including all of Shabbat, in jail.

Didi Remez reported on Facebook that “Four of Israel’s leading human rights lawyers defended the group at {befor} the Jerusalem Justice of the Peace, arguing that the dispersion of the protest was part of a campaign to stifle dissent and freedom of speech … Judge ruled arrests were categorically illegal”.

In a separate posting on Facebook, Didi Remez posted a message from ACRI attorney Dan Yakir in which Yakir wrote:
“Like every Friday over the last three months, last Friday, January 15, 2010, there was a demonstration in Sheikh Jarrah against Jews moving into the neighborhood.
The police rejected the organizers’ request to march from the Hamashbir L’Tzarchan department store in downtown Jerusalem to Sheikh Jarrah, so 150 protestors held a protest watch in the neighborhood.
Even though this sort of protest does not require a license, within 15 minutes a police officer ordered the demonstrators to disperse and within a short time 17 demonstrators were arrested. One of the detainees was Hagai El-Ad, the Executive Director of ACRI, after he tried to no avail to persuade the officers there was no legal basis for dispersing the demonstration.
On Friday evening ACRI submitted a request to release the detainees, but the request was not heard.
On Saturday night the detainees were brought to the Magistrate Court and the police asked to release them on the following conditions: to require them to report for investigation, to pose NIS 5000 in bail and to stay out of Sheikh Jarrah for 60 days.
Lawyers Lea Tsemel and Tamar Peleg Sarik from Hamoked: Center for the Defense of the Individual, Michael Sfard of Yesh Din and Dan Yakir of ACRI represented the detainees. After a two-hour hearing, in the early morning Judge Eilata Ziskind accepted our arguments that it was a demonstration that did not require a license, that there was no basis to disperse it and that the police had not substantiated the argument that there was a danger of disturbing the public order“.

A spokesperson for ACRI later told the Jerusalem Post that the organization “had not initiated the demonstration, but that [Hagai] El-Ad and other members attended it in order to monitor the conduct of Jerusalem police towards the protesters, not to demonstrate against Jewish settlement in Sheikh Jarrah. The spokesperson said ACRI had received complaints about police conduct during protests for months before Friday’s arrests. On Friday, when El-Ad approached officers to complain about the arrest of protesters, he was himself detained, the spokesperson said, adding that it was the first time a member of ACRI had ever been arrested at a protest. On Sunday, El-Ad told The Post that he attended the rally as part of ACRI’s ‘efforts to protect freedom of speech’, adding that although the organization was not behind the vigil, on a personal level he sympathized with its organizers, calling what is going on in Sheikh Jarrah ‘a moral outrage’. El-Ad said that he believes the police arrested him because they thought he was one of the organizers of the protest, because he had approached them to tell them that their efforts to silence the vigil were illegal. El-Ad said he believes his arrest is merely part of the ongoing efforts on the part of police to intimidate protesters in Sheikh Jarrah, citing the over 70 demonstrators who have been arrested there in recent weeks … Following the arrests, Jerusalem police said that the demonstration was led by ‘anarchists and leftists’ who did not follow police orders and that if they continued to take part in illegal protests, they should expect to be arrested.” This article was published here.

UPDATE: A Haaretz editorial on the following day (Monday 18 January) said that “The arrest of 17 civil rights activists demonstrating in East Jerusalem’s Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood on Friday and their detention by the police overnight represents another stage in the Israel Police’s get-tough attitude and willingness to infringe on freedom of demonstration, protest and speech in this country. The right to demonstrate is an important component of freedom of expression, and something which Israeli courts have enshrined as a ‘supreme right’. The detainees, who included the director of the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, Hagai Elad, endangered no one and broke no law; their arrest was therefore nothing less than false arrest. Moreover, the police’s claim that the protesters had no license to demonstrate was rejected by a court, which declared that a protest vigil does not require a permit and there was no reason to disperse it or arrest the protesters. The only conclusion is that the police have decided to wage war on the demonstrations in Sheikh Jarrah and use force to end the protests, something they have neither the right nor authority to do … It’s the police’s duty to preserve order at demonstrations and no more, unless there is a reason to disperse protesters. But by no means should they prevent demonstrations from taking place. The arrest of the protesters for no reason creates the suspicion that the police have had enough of these demonstrations. It also shows that the police discriminate between demonstrators from the right and left. While right-wing activists run amok in the West Bank to protest against the construction freeze and are almost never arrested, civil-rights demonstrators are being detained in increasing numbers. The public security minister and police commissioner must stop this dangerous deterioration of their organizations. They must act immediately to closely guard freedom of demonstration and ensure that the police do not do anything to harm it. A society without protests is a sick society, afflicted by lethargy and complacency that breed evil. A police force that falsely arrests peaceful demonstrators is dangerous and harmful to democracy“. This Haaretz editorial, Dangerous Police, was posted here.