In pictures: When a non-violent protest ends in death

Palestinian villager killed after being shot in the face with a tear gas canister by an Israeli soldier at close range.

Nabi Saleh, a small village of about 550 people, 20 km northwest of Ramallah in the West Bank, has been organising non-violent protests against land theft since 2009.

On December 9, 2011, the Friday demonstration began as it always did: villagers, international and Israeli activists gathered in the centre of the village and marched towards land usurped by the Israeli settlement of Halamish. Soon after, the Israeli military drove to the entrance of the village in jeeps and began firing teargas at the protesters.

Mustafa Tamimi, 28, was protesting with other young men from the village. As the jeeps stopped to let a bulldozer clear rocks that had been placed in the road to prevent their entrance, Tamimi and a few others moved closer to throw stones in a symbolic gesture against occupation.

An Israeli soldier opened his door, aimed his gun and shot Tamimi directly in the face with an “extended range” teargas canister; he was shot from a distance of less than 10 metres, according to witnesses.

Tamimi died from his injuries. 

Some experts trace conflict in the area back to 1976, when the illegal Israeli settlement of Halamish (or Neveh Tzuf) was established on land belonging to Nabi Saleh. Since then, the settlement has continued to grow and expand. In 2008, residents of the village challenged the construction of a fence by Israeli settlers on private Palestinian land. 

When the case was brought to Israeli court, it was decided that the fence must be removed. However, like many Israeli court rulings on Palestinian grievances, it was not upheld “on the ground” and the settlement continued to illegally annex Palestinian land.

Soon after, settlers seized control of several springs which were all located on land belonging to Nabi Saleh residents.

Today, around 13 per cent of the villagers has been arrested by Israeli authorities for participating in the demonstrations – including 29 children and four women.

Recently, two prominent leaders of the non-violent struggle, Naji Tamimi and Bassem Tamimi, were arrested and remain prisoners in Israel. They are charged with “incitement” and organising “illegal” demonstrations.

After Friday prayers, residents of Nabi Saleh, with international and Israeli activists, marched towards land stolen by an Israeli settlement [credit: Lazar Simeonov]


Israeli soldiers arrived and blocked the road leading out of the village [credit: Lazar Simeonov]


Frank La Rue, UN Special Rapporteur on the right to freedom of opinion and expression, attended the demonstration [credit: Lazar Simeonov]


La Rue was welcomed to the village by a special, Palestinian-brand of modern art:  empty teargas grenades hanging from wires [credit: Lazar Simeonov]


The demonstration escalated when Israeli soldiers fired teargas at the protesters [credit: Lazar Simeonov]


With the illegal Halamish settlement in the background, Palestinian youth throw stones at Israeli soldiers [credit: Lazar Simeonov]


Some youth managed to throw some of the teargas canisters back at the Israeli soldiers [credit: Lazar Simeonov]


Mustafa Tamimi was shot in the face by an extended range teargas canister from a distance of less than 10 metres, according to witnesses [credit: Lazar Simeonov]


There is no hospital in Nabi Saleh, the closest one is 20 km and a few checkpoints away in Ramallah. But without an ambulance on the scene, protesters had to wait for the first available car to try to save Tamimi [credit: Lazar Simeonov]


It was clear to witnesses that Tamimi’s injuries were critical, and that he had lost a great deal of blood [credit: Lazar Simeonov]


Tamimi’s sister Ola (left) and cousin Nariman (middle) were prevented from reaching critically-injured Tamimi by the Israeli soldiers [credit: Lazar Simeonov]


A Palestinian woman angry at the soldiers after they shot Tamimi [credit: Lazar Simeonov]


Demonstrators non-violently protesting the shooting of Tamimi [credit: Lazar Simeonov]


For the first time, a resident of Nabi Saleh was killed in the weekly demonstrations, and it came as a shock to villagers and international activists alike [credit: Lazar Simeonov]

Lazar Simeonov is a freelance photographer based in Ramallah, West Bank. You can visit his website here.

Source: Al Jazeera

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