Dozens of Palestinians inhaled teargas on Friday, September 4, as Israeli occupation forces attacked the weekly protest against Israeli settlements in the village of Kafr Qadum in the northern occupied West Bank.
Morad Shtewi, an official in charge of the popular resistance committee in the village, told the Palestinian news agency WAFA that Israeli soldiers fired rubber-coated rounds and teargas at the protesters, causing many cases of wheezing, coughing, and choking from inhaling the gas. The injured were treated at the scene by local medics.
On Thursday, August 20, a day before the next weekly Friday protest, residents of Kafr Qadum discovered improvised explosive devices (IEDs) planted and camouflaged in an area where the protests regularly take place on the outskirts of the village. A group of women and children strolling in the area came upon a suspicious object covered with stones and cloth and alerted a relative. Village residents discovered a second IED along the same trail and threw stones at it to blow it up (see the video referenced below). The military itself disarmed a third IED later that night.
In response to questions by Ha’aretz reporters, the military admitted that soldiers had planted the IEDs, claiming they were stun grenades with no other explosives that had been placed there by Israeli troops “to create deterrence in an uninhabited, open area where violent disturbances of the peace have been taking place regularly for several years.” Israel’s Military Spokesperson disingenuously added “after it became apparent that the devices posed a danger, the forces took action to remove them from the area.” The military’s response ignored the fact that one of the IEDS had already blown up and slightly wounded a village resident. It is also inconsistent with the fact that the IEDs were placed about 150 meters from a home, in an area that villagers, including children, regularly frequent. The military refused to answer Ha’aretz’s queries about who had approved the placement of the IEDs on pathways used by residents and who had prepared them.
Since 2011, the residents of Kafr Qadum have been holding weekly protests against the closure of the main entrance to the village. The entrance, which leads to the major city of Nablus, was sealed off in 2003 when the site was included in the expansion of the Israeli settlement of Kedumim. The military operates on the basic assumption that Palestinians in the occupied territories do not have the right to protest, and exacts a very high price from them for insisting to do so. In the last 13 months alone, a 9-year-old boy and a 15-year-old youth were shot in the head in Kafr Qadum; a military bulldozer intentionally drove ahead boulders so that they would run down protestors, injuring a journalist and almost crushing a child; soldiers were documented firing teargas canisters at the home of the protests’ leader, slashing the tires of a parked car, and firing at water tanks on the roofs of residents’ homes.
According to B’Tselem, “Even in an area where acts of retaliation by soldiers have become routine, planting IEDs is an exceptional step that by sheer luck did not result in grave injury. That is how militias operate, not a regular army. The action reflects the spirit of Israel’s political and military leadership, which conveys total disregard for the lives and personal safety of Palestinians.”