(click to enlarge)
On Thursday, 23 July MPT was called back to Asira al Qibliya because settlers from the nearby illegal outpost of Shalhevet Yitzhar had come down the hill to attack local villagers. The Israeli army was called and one small Palestinian child sustained injuries to his arm and leg from a military sound bomb (see picture below).
Villagers told MPTers that approximately 150 armed settlers came down from the illegal outpost and began throwing stones at villagers and their homes. MPT was also shown video footage of this attack taken on a camera given to local villagers by the Israeli group B’Tselem in order for Palestinians to document human rights abuses. After 15 minutes the army arrived and although they tried to separate Palestinians and settlers the settlers continued throwing stones. The army shot sound bombs and teargas at the villagers who had gathered due to the settler attacks, including discharging teargas canisters directly into two nearby homes.
Marks left by teargas canister outside a Palestinian home
When MPT arrived the villagers were still suffering from the effects of the teargas, and MPT was immediately taken to one elderly woman (pictured below) whose house was hit by teargas. The woman was shaking uncontrollably and breathing heavily to the extent that the Red Crescent (Palestinian paramedics) was called to treat her and other villagers for gas inhalation.
Next MPTers were ushered to the front of the crowd where 9 soldiers were standing on a small hill facing the Palestinians. Behind these soldiers were at least 6 army vehicles with a number of other soldiers positioned in the hills between the Palestinians and the settlers who had re-gathered at their illegal outpost. When MPT got to the front of the group one soldier tried to photograph MPTers, a tactic sometimes used to discourage internationals from their work. After another 20 minutes, several of the soldiers came down to talk to village leaders in order to disperse the crowd of Palestinians. At the same time the 4 soldiers who remained on the hill were given sound bombs and teargas canisters. The soldiers had their fingers on the pin ready to use these weapons although they did not end up using them again.
The Palestinians did back up but did not leave as they were standing in their own village. The military stayed in position and the settlers remained gathered at the top of the hill in plain view of the soldiers and villagers. The settlers eventually dispersed and shortly after the army got into their jeeps. Ten minutes later the army drove out through the village. MPT stayed in the village for another 30 minutes before returning home.