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An unarmed demonstrator was shot with a live bullet today (24 September) in the West Bank village of Bil’in. Ashraf Al-Khatib, 31, a resident of the village, was shot in the leg while participating in the weekly demonstration against Israel’s separation barrier. The demonstrators were unarmed.
The barrier, which is wire and wrought metal at the Bil’in section, divides the village from its agricultural lands. While the goal of the weekly demonstration is to march to the land beyond the barrier, soldiers usually stop the activists well before they reach it, shooting rounds of tear gas from the other side.
According to a press release from Anarchists Against the Wall, an Israeli activists’ organization, this week IDF soldiers crossed the barrier and chased the demonstrators.
Around 50 demonstrators marched from the village to the wall, where they were confronted by the IDF soldiers, who used tear gas and live ammunition. The soldiers crossed the barrier and chased the demonstrators until the outskirts of the village where neither side could deal with the heat. After half-an-hour they retreated, the soldiers to the other side of the barrier and the demonstrators back to the center of the village.
An eyewitness reports that a Palestinian photojournalist, Eyad Jadalla, was hit in the head by a rock and briefly hospitalized, while an international activist was hit in the shoulder with a tear gas projectile.
The marchers also expressed solidarity with Palestinians in Silwan, whose residents rioted earlier this week after local community activist Samar Sarhan was shot dead by an Israeli security guard on Wednesday morning. The Israeli security guards in Silwan are tasked with guarding the far-right ideological Jewish settlers who recently moved into the Palestinian village, located near the walls of Jerusalem’s Old City.
The march began around noon, reportedly with around 250 participants – about 200 Palestinian residents and 50 Israeli activists. As the marchers approached the barrier, approximately 40 IDF forces ran out of the nearby settlement and blockaded the road, preventing the protesters from reaching the village’s land. In 2007 Israel’s Supreme Court ruled that the separation barrier’s route caused undue hardship to the people of Bil’in; the judges ordered the IDF to re-route the barrier, but the IDF has yet to comply with the court’s ruling.
Using their shields, Israeli security forces pushed back the marchers. After a standoff of about 30 minutes, one Palestinian youth threw a stone. Soldiers responded by firing several large vollies of tear gas at the crowd.
At some point the security forces opened fire with live ammunition. Ashraf Al-Khatib was hit in the lower leg. Villagers him into a private car and rushed him to a hospital, evading IDF forces that sought to arrest the wounded man even though he could not stand and his leg was bleeding profusely. Upon Al-Khatib’s arrival at hospital, examining physicians discovered that the 0.22” caliber round had smashed his shin bone.
The Popular Struggle Coordination Committee reports on its website that the IDF used live ammunition today against unarmed demonstrators in Ni’lin and Nabi Saleh, in addition to Bi’lin.
Ashraf Khatib suffered a fracture to his leg today after being shot in the calf by an Israeli sniper during an anti-wall demonstration in the West Bank village of Bil’in. Khatib was hit with an 0.22″ caliber bullet, which was prohibited for crowed control use by the military’s Judge Advocate General. Two demonstrators -14 year-old Az a-Din al-Jamal in Hebron and Aqel Srour in Ni’ilin – have already been killed by these bullets in 2009, despite the JUG’s prohibition on their use.
Recently, a military officer who was in charge of operations in the Israeli Army’s Binyamin Brigade said in military court that he is not familiar with the JUG directives and that the army does consider 0.22″ caliber bullets as legitimate means for crowd control.
Live ammunition was also shot at demonstrators in an attempt to disperse the protest in the village of Ni’ilin, after soldiers crossed into village lands through a gate in the concrete wall. Soldiers also fired live rounds in Nabi Saleh, where an Israeli demonstrator was detained.
In Bil’in, in addition to Khatib who was hit by live ammunition, an international activist was hit in the shoulder by a tear-gas projectile shot directly at him.