We have been seeing an increased number of Israeli settler and military attacks against Palestinian civilians and property over the last few weeks. This has included far more incidents than usual in Bethlehem district.
Three Palestinian men were shot dead by Israeli military in the South Hebron Hills three days ago and this has led to a spate of protests across the West Bank. Amongst other duties we have been monitoring the situation during clashes between kids and the Israeli military at Aida refugee camp for the last three days.
Yesterday I saw the Israeli military shoot four teenagers with rubber bullets to the legs. Every now and then as kids threw stones towards the watch tower, the iron door in the Wall would slide back and a group of soldiers would come out and begin firing tear gas. Then we heard rubber bullets zipping past and the kids scattered, waiting a while and then move back towards the soldiers again. It became a game of bravado until the first boy fell, and then the next, (see video above_ footage taken by Alison Morgan and Julie Land).
Though stone-throwing is a violent act that we do not condone, in this situation the soldiers need not have exposed themselves to any danger. All they had to do was ignore the kids, and remain safe behind their concrete wall or in their concrete tower, rather than coming into Bethlehem where, even under the Oslo agreement, the Israeli military has no right to go.
Aida is a densely populated warren of narrow streets and ramshackle houses. It is still home to thousands of Palestinian families who were dispossessed of their homes in 1948 and 1967. It is full of bored angry kids who the world has abandoned, their history stolen, their future vanishing and nothing left to lose.
The Segregation Wall and the military watch-tower loom over their homes, a daily representation of the violence of the occupation that has now overshadowed three generations. The only colour is provided by the now famous Wall art.
The Israeli military regularly fire teargas and make incursions into the camp – often firing live ammunition and arresting kids in the middle of the night. – even though Bethlehem is in Area A and supposedly under full Palestinian Authority control.
Today there was were more clashes, with the Israeli soldiers pursuing kids right up to the Key of Return entrance.
A group of young boys showed us their collection of rubber bullets that they had been picking up from the ground.