As envisaged during the last days, at this very moment the daily clashes during the rallies to support Palestinian prisoners increased in the West Bank. The population feels very close to the protest of the empty stomachs, even if there are no hopeful news. The number of arrested minors is also increasing, in particular in the refugee camps. In this article, I am trying to tell you my impressions on-site.
I am here in the West Bank, close to the Palestinian population to describe daily life and to show that a child is forced to live a completely different life than the life we could imagine in a normal Western country, even if the latter is often rather boring. In my previous articles, I have talked about what is happening here these weeks, after the participation of almost 2.000 prisoners detained in Israeli prisons in the hunger strike proclaimed by al Fatah leader Marwan Bargouthi. On April 27, 2017, next to the Aida refugee Camp where there is the “famous” separation wall, embellished by the artists’ murals, early in the morning the rally in support of the prisoners starts. Many bins were reversed and burned to avoid the approach of the Israeli military forces to the main road leading to Jerusalem. Many children carry stones, and are ready to escape at the start-up of their friends. In the distance, the emptiness, suffocatingly waiting for the Israeli soldiers. On the earth, hundreds of tear gas cartridges used to stun the population. A moment later I try to take some photos.
Then a military car at high speed moves in our direction. The tear gas makes our eyes water, and the confused voices of the children stun us. On the day Abu Mazen called a general strike, all protesters hope to find a place of refuge. We are happy to see a small shop which has left the roller shutter open so that we can enter. Inside wet wipes and water are distributed to clear our throat and to blot the swollen eye lids. In the end when I am able to open my eyes, among the shelves I see people bent to the ground with the head between their hands.
Others run along the streets, and hide their face in the pullovers trying to get away as fast as possible from the main road. We stop for an hour, outside the air has become unbreathable. At last, we come back to the street. In the meantime the boys have become tired, and some of them has taken the bicycle from home to run faster than the gas. In the distance, we can see three silhouettes of Israeli soldiers; directly in front of us there is an ambulance of the international Red Cross. At least 15 people have been rescued since this morning, among them also a couple of American tourists. The children always stand in readiness, while from the roofs somebody with the face covered by a kefia throws stones towards the wall.
The alarm restarts again, and the ambulance reverses to park behind a partition. We hear children crying, while they are running towards us… to make us understand that the time has come… again we have to find a place of refuge. They run as swift as the wind, all of them scream, the gun-shots are blown in the sky, and the general escape starts again. A Palestinian photojournalist is hunched over his legs because he is without gas mask. He tightens his eyes between his hands. Then he stands up suddenly, and starts to escape to avoid the toxic powders. The smell is indescribable. In the meantime, my companion sprays perfume on paper handkerchiefs and distributes them among the people. As a good Palestinian, he has gained experience over all these years. A child runs towards us and tells us that a 17-year-old guy was arrested. He was kicked to the ground by four Israeli soldiers and then dragged on the asphalt like a lamb to the slaughter. We cannot intervene, because we understand how quickly they would arrest us. And if arrested, we could not tell the latest in a long string of stories of ordinary guerrilla where children play the role of disarmed, small heroes, like David played against Goliath. So this is the result of today, April 27, next to Bethlehem: 4 minors arrested, at least fifteen people rescued because of the damages caused by toxicgas, and among them a couple of tourists. The Israeli military forces did not just attack the rally, but also prepared an invasion into the near village arresting 7 people, the majority of which were minors. In the village of Betunia two people, one adult and one child, were arrested.
English Translation by Milena Rampoldi, ProMosaik.