RAMALLAH (Ma’an) — Israeli troops on Tuesday used force to break up a protest against settler attacks on a main road in the West Bank. Dozens of Palestinians and international activists blocked Route 443 near Beit Ur, west of Ramallah. Israeli troops used force to break up the protest, firing sound grenades and pepper spray. An Israeli military spokeswoman told Ma’an that forces used “riot dispersal means” to move protesters who were blocking traffic. A Ma’an reporter said several protesters were injured.
“The direct action today was organized in light of the increasing settler terrorism against Palestinians and their properties during the current olive harvest season, including the torching, uprooting or setting fire to olive trees, the theft of harvested olives, and the attacking of Palestinian families while picking olives,” the Popular Struggle Coordination Committee said in a statement. “We organized this action today to stress that as long as Palestinians suffer under the daily practices of the occupation and settler terror, Israeli daily life can’t continue on as normal,” said activist Mohammad Khatib.
“We call on people of conscience around the world to support the Palestinian struggle by engaging in the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign against Israel, and to take serious actions to boycott companies that are complicit with the Israeli apartheid, such as Veolia, which operates transportation routes that use Road 443, which is built on Palestinian lands,” Khatib added. Demonstrators were also protesting the ban on Palestinians using the road. Since 2002, Israel’s military has prohibited Palestinians from using the highway, which Israel expanded on privately-owned Palestinian land.
The ban disconnects seven villages from each other and from Ramallah. The Israeli high court ruled in Dec. 2009 that the ban on Palestinians using Route 443 in the West Bank should be lifted as it exceeded the Israeli military commander’s authority and broke international law. Israeli’s military still denies Palestinians free use of the road, which is used by thousands of Israelis every day. Israel has reopened a small section of the road to Palestinians, but villagers are still unable to use it to access Ramallah.