The Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) again raided the West Bank village of Bil’in in the wee hours of Aug. 3, arresting seven Palestinians and one US solidarity activist. The force wearing combat paint and masks invaded several homes. Two Palestinian youths were among those arrested, as was Mohammad Khatib of the Bil’in Popular Committee Against the Wall and Settlements. The home of another member of the Popular Committee was raided, but soldiers could not arrest him because he was not present. The raid is the latest of several that Israeli forces have carried out in Bil’in since June.
Since June 29, Israeli forces have arrested 25 people (most under 18), of which 18 are currently being held. Israeli troops have reportedly been using interrogation techniques to pressure the arrested youth to give statements against Bil’in community leaders. the IDF then arrest community leaders, several of whom are being held without bail for the duration of their trial.
On July 21, a military judge decided to hold Adeeb Abu Rahma, a leading activist who was arrested at a protest in Bil’in on July 10, until the end of proceedings against him. This could mean months or a year in military prison for Adeeb, who is being charged with incitement to violence and rioting. He is the sole provider for his family of nine children, wife and mother.
Abdullah Abu Rahme, coordinator of the Popular Committee, stated:
Mohammad Khatib and Adib Abu Rahme along with other leaders of the Palestinian popular struggle are being targeted because the mobilize Palestinians to resist nonviolently. The fact is that the Apartheid Wall and the settlements built on Palestinian land are illegal under international law, in the case of our village even the biased Israeli court declared the route illegal. Yet Israel is prosecuting us as criminals because we struggle nonviolently for our freedom.
Bil’in has become an international symbol of the Palestinian struggle. For almost five years, its residents have been continuously struggling against the de facto annexation of more then 50% of their farmlands the construction of the “apartheid wall.” In a celebrated decision, the Israeli Supreme court ruled in September 2007 that the current route of the wall in Bil’in is illegal and needs to be dismantled; the ruling, however, has not been implemented.
One protester, Basem Abu Rahma, was killed at a demonstration as he was attempting to speak with the soldiers in April. (Bil’in Popular Committee, Aug. 3; Palestinian Grassroots Anti-Apartheid Wall Campaign, May 14)