Heroes and Cowards

April 19, 2009

In News

By Ali Waked and Anat Shalev

Local demonstrator seriously injured by tear gas canister hit to his chest during anti-fence rally, dies of wounds shortly after reaching hospital. IDF says protest was violent. Demonstrators: We’re like sitting ducks; soldiers fire at anything that moves; army, PA investigating

Palestinian sources reported Friday that a local demonstrator was killed after being hit in the chest by a tear gas canister during a protest against the separation fence in the West Bank village of Bilin.

The man, 30-year-old Bassem Ibrahim Abu-Rahma from Bilin, was evacuated to a Ramallah hospital in serious condition, where he then died of his wounds. The army confirmed the report of Abu-Rahma’s death.

Representatives of the IDF and the Coordination and Liaison Authority met with Palestinian officials later in the day as part of the joint investigation into the incident.

Palestinians reported that IDF and Border Guard officers used live fire, rubber bullets and tear gas against the protesters, and claimed that the shooting began while those present were in the middle of their Friday prayers.

Protesters said that in recent weeks the military has been increasing the force it uses to disperse protests against the separation fence.

The IDF said violent riots broke out in the protest attended by some 100 Palestinians, leftists and foreigners, who threw stones at security forces. The forces responded with crowd control means.

A left wing-activist who took part in the demonstration called the IDF’s conduct “murderous,” adding “we are like sitting ducks.”

Roni Barkan, a member of the “Anarchists Against the Fence” group, told Ynet that the rally was peaceful and that “no stones were thrown.”

“The soldiers, who were standing less than 30 meters (about 100 feet) from us, immediately began to throw stun grenades in our direction,” he said. “A few minutes later I overheard the commander tell the soldiers to prepare to throw tear gas canisters. There were two or three shots, and then Abu-Rahma was hit. I tried to stop the bleeding.”

According to Barkan, “it seems that since Operation Cast Lead IDF soldiers and commanders have been conducting themselves in an even less moral and humane manner; they are firing at anything that moves.”

Coordination and Liaison Authority head Brigadier-General Yoav Mordechai turned to the Palestinian security services and asked to conduct a joint medical examination to determine the circumstances of Abu-Rahma’s death.

Last month an anti-fence protest in the nearby village of Na’alin ended with an American citizen seriously injured after being hit by a tear gas canister.

Tristan Anderson, 37, from California, was rushed to the Chaim Sheba Medical Center at Tel Hashomer for treatment.

Ulrika Jenson, a Swedish left-wing activist who was at last month’s rally, said, “The IDF soldiers stood on the hill and watched the protestors. They fired tear gas canisters at us.

“Anderson was hit by one of the canisters and collapsed on the floor, with a big hole in the middle of his forehead. I tried to stop the blood until the ambulance got there, but it was nearly impossible.”