The Israeli media has been saturated with debate on whether the use of live ammunition was warranted to quell a violent demonstration near Israel’s security buffer on Friday.
Yet, in the past few days, the same scene played out repeatedly between Israeli border police, soldiers and protesters along the security buffer.
On Wednesday, at least one Israeli and several Palestinian protesters were hurt, after a few border policemen were injured when protesters threw rocks at them. The police shot rubber bullets and tear gas at the protesters.
The actions took place in Budrus in Samaria, where construction of the buffer recently began.
Protesters had congregated at the same site on Tuesday and additional border police and soldiers were dispatched in anticipation of more demonstrations on Wednesday, according to reports.
Gil Na’amati, a 22-year-old Israeli, was hospitalized when the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) shot live bullets at protesters who tried to tear down the buffer near Qalqilya, a town in western Samaria on Friday. An American tourist was lightly wounded from shrapnel.
The soldiers fired “warning shots” first and then aimed at the feet of demonstrators, according to reports; protesters said they were not warned.
Gush Shalom, an Israeli political organization, is planning another protest against the buffer at Budrus on Saturday with several other groups including Na’amati’s Anarchists Against the Wall, according to Gush Shalom spokesman Adam Keller. It will take place on the Palestinian side of the buffer near Budrus and Keller expects several hundred activists to attend.
Like many protests against the buffer in the past, Saturday’s event will denounce “the fact that the wall is tearing up whole Palestinian communities…and cutting rural villages off from their land,” Keller said.
However, in light of last Friday’s events, the protesters will try to draw the attention of the Israeli public to the reprehensibility of soldiers shooting unarmed protesters, Keller said. Moreover, they will denounce that the “fuss” surrounding the Na’amati incident stems from the fact that one of the injured protesters was Israeli; if he had been Palestinian, the action would have received only a few lines in the press, he explained.
“The main problem is not the individual who pulled the trigger, but the higher command that gives orders,” Keller said.
The IDF and the Knesset’s (Parliament) Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee have announced inquiries into Friday’s events.
The responsible parties will likely be tried in a military court on criminal charges, though the punishment may be relatively lax as the soldiers were on active duty.
Gush Shalom does not expect more than partial concessions from the Sharon government as a result of this protest, but hopes to ultimately induce its “collapse.”
Keller pointed to the changes approved in the buffer’s route on Tuesday as “small, partial steps” that can be brought about by protests.
Israeli officials announced that the eastern part of the buffer around the West Bank town of Qalqilya would be opened. Furthermore, the barrier around the Palestinian town of Baq’a A-Sharqiyya, near the Israeli city of Hadera, will only be erected on the east side of the community instead of on both sides, a route which nears the Green Line, according to the Israeli daily Haaretz.
Keller said that if the buffer were being built along the Green Line, Gush Shalom would not actively protest it.
The Coalition of Women for Peace is planning a widely-publicized demonstration against the “occupation” on Friday, wherein the buffer and Na’amati will figure prominently, according to Keller.
Dozens of protesters gathered outside Israel’s Ministry of Security in Tel Aviv on Saturday in defense of Na’amati and his fellow activists.