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Nabi Saleh breaks the military siege

For three days, a small village in the West Bank, Nabi Saleh, was subjected to a military siege imposed by the Israeli Occupation Forces as a form of collective punishment. On Saturday 12th of April, the IOF imposed the blockade after declaring it to be a "closed military area". All the main entrances to Nabi Saleh were closed and anyone who attempted to enter or leave the village was attacked, regardless of the threat they represented. Just before the siege, Sarak, the Israeli military unit in position and known for its ruthlessness, announced its intention to "impose law and order by suppressing any form of terrorism". This was a senseless statement considering the fact that since 2009 Nabi Saleh has witnessed non-violent action against the Israeli occupation in all its facets. A strategic choice that has encouraged support for the Palestinian cause, the tactics adopted in Nabi Saleh have collected various victories which are now obviously perceived as a threat by the Zionist oppressors, given the over-reaction and the excessive army brutality against the residents.

One young man, Odai Tamimi, was shot in the face and chest by soldiers using live ammunition. Wijdan Tamimi, a 45 year-old woman, was beaten and detained by the soldiers in front of her 4 year-old nephew. Faysal Nakhla was attacked physically and prevented from reaching his house just 5 metres from the village entrance.

It appears clear that such a siege was forced on the village as a collective punishment in the Israelis' attempt to break the firm popular struggle and weaken the whole non-violent protest movement. In fact, Nabi Saleh is very well known as one of the most active peaceful resistance villages in the West Bank. Every Friday it stages non-violent demonstrations against the land confiscation and the theft of the only natural spring source of water in the area carried out by the settlers from the nearby Halamish illegal settlement. In the last month, the village has endured an escalation of repression and arrests culminating in the blockade.

Once again, however, the adverse conditions didn't break the willingness of the residents to act. On Monday 14th of April, the Popular Struggle Committee of Nabi Saleh called for a demonstration in order to end the siege. Activists from all over the West Bank went to the village to give significant support to the action. Many mobile army checkpoints were set up on the way from Ramallah in an attempt to stem the flow but they failed to have a major impact on the effectiveness of the event, which was a massive success.

As soon as the march reached the main road, the IOF started firing tear gas and sound grenades. Nevertheless, the march proceeded united towards the checkpoint where it refused to move until the gate was opened and the siege lifted. Although the spirit of the demonstration was peaceful, the army used uncontrolled violence, especially towards the women who were beaten, pushed and tossed to the ground several times. After an hour or so, the army decided to withdraw and the demonstrators managed to open the main road as well as the eastern gate that has been closed for 12 years.

Nabi Saleh has proven that the use of non-violence isn't a passive way to pursue the struggle; it's a strategic option that threatens the status-quo, allowing the participants to advance their objectives and achieve them.

This episode was also an occasion to remind the world that the Palestinians are subjected continuously to mobility restrictions and controls due to the policy of territorial fragmentation carried out by the state of Israel. Such limitations manifest themselves through a system of checkpoints, settler-only apartheid roads and the infamous Apartheid Wall.

The author is a Servizio Civile Internazionale Italia (SCI) volunteer with a Master's degree in International Cooperation. She is currently living in Nabi Saleh and reporting about the Popular Struggle.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.

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