3 Nov 14
We went to be at a demonstration in Qalandiya (south of Ramallah) on 97th anniversary of the infamous Balfour Declaration. It started with a group of young boys walking toward the check point, a place of frequent clashes, and throwing stones. As usual it developed into teargas, burning tires, throwing rocks, rubber bullets and, rubber coated steel bullets.
To avoid the tear gas we went to a place near the check point and occupying forces (we saw both Border Police and Israeli military). The media was doing interviews, safe from the teargas and flying stones with the smoke and the demonstration for the back drop. Apparently the military decided they didn’t want the media there or maybe some soldier wanted a little fun, whatever the reason they dropped some flash-bang hand-grenades over the wall at us. I am so naïve that I would have expected the military to just ask the press to move. I guess that is the arrogance of an occupation - you just drop grenades on the press. No, many if not most occupying forces are very careful of the press, even court the press, but not in Palestine.
|aiming with rubber bullets, no one hiding from rocks|
From this vantage point we were able to watch the military. It is worth noting that there were no rocks falling where we were or where the military was. This is significant because if the military is at mortal risk different weapons become legal both by Israeli rules and by international law. The military used many 40mm gas grenades, rubber bullets and, rubber coated steel bullets. They also used flash bang grenades near the wall.
Before we left the area near the military the Border Guards deployed a Ruger 10/22 sniper rifle (4Xscope, tripod and, silencer). This weapon shoots a .22LR round. The occupying forces claim it is non-lethal because they only use it to shoot the legs out from under the protesters. They claim it is used to hospitalize without killing protesters who represent a mortal threat to the forces. It is clearly a less deadly ammunition than the typical military 5.56 NATO round. But if you buy a box of .22LR in the US it says “Range 1-mile Be Careful.” While it is not the preferred weapon for hunting, many hunters do shoot deer with it and with only one shot. This weapon was initially used as a non-lethal weapon, but after several deaths and more research the Military Advocate General curtailed its use. In 2010 an IDF Spokesman's Office said that rules for firing 0.22 ammunition are part of the general rules of engagement, "and as such are classified and naturally cannot be elaborated on. In general, it can be noted that the rules applying to 0.22 ammunition are strict and are parallel, in general, to rules applying to ordinary live ammunition.” Remember that in this situation the protesters only had stones to throw and that none of those were even reaching where we and the occupying forces were. It is hard to imagine how they can claim mortal threat and justify even moving such a weapon out in front. We left our place next to the military before seeing them fire it.
We moved to different places, balancing the teargas, the risks to ourselves, and being an effective presence. Sometimes running from the teargas with the Palestinians, sometimes being pulled into shops by shop keepers behind the doors closed against the teargas.
|The Ruger 10/22, the most forward part of the military|
One of fellow internationals believes they will not shoot at internationals and the important thing is to be plainly visible to the occupying forces. As we stood there, with no demonstrators near us, some tear gas canisters winged by his ear.
Another or our group was shot with a rubber coated steel bullet see http://palsolidarity.org/2014/11/ism-activist-shot-in-the-head-with-rubber-coated-steel-bullet/
It is of note that outside of maybe 100 boys most of life in Qalandiya was going on as best it could. The road is 4 lanes wide with a concrete barrier down the middle. At points the traffic just shifted so both directions used the 2 lanes that were away from the demonstration. Shops closed their doors to the waves of teargas.