At approximately 11:30 am on Tuesday 24 January 2012, Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) opened heavy fire with live ammunition and launched tens of tear gas canisters at a peaceful demonstration organized by the Local Initiative in Beit Hanoun. The demonstrations are organized weekly to protest the imposition of the so-called “security buffer zone.” Demonstrators were between 100 to 300 meters from the separation fence when the IOF opened fire on them. No casualties or injuries were reported, but the demonstrators were choked by the tear gas. This is not the first time that the IOF has attacked the peaceful weekly demonstration.
In his affidavit to Al Mezan, Saber Az-Zaneen, 33, one of the demonstration’s organizers, stated: “At around 10:30 am on Tuesday, 60 Palestinians, five international solidarity activists, 10 journalists, and members of the Local Initiative walked in a march from the Agricultural Secondary School to a point near the border about 100 meters away from the separation fence. Israeli snipers who were in concrete watchtowers fired tear gas canisters at the protestors, so they headed to the south. The situation was chaotic. Demonstrators started to carry away others who were choking from inhaling tear gas.
“The protestors moved alongside the separation fence about 150 meters to the east, to a spot near the old solid waste dump. They stopped there and chanted against the security buffer zone, waving Palestinian and international flags. Meanwhile, several Israeli soldiers descended from the watchtowers and opened fire directly at the demonstrators. I could see bullets hitting the sand. The demonstrators moved back.
“The demonstrators continued to walk east, towards the Israeli military transmission tower, and stopped again at a point about 200 meters away from the separation fence. I saw several military jeeps stop and a number of IOF soldiers got out and again opened fire directly at the demonstrators. All of us left the area and then moved to the southeast. We stopped at the Ash-Sha’fa area, about 250 meters away from the eastern separation fence between the Gaza Strip and Israel. The demonstrators continued to chant against the buffer zone.
A number of Israeli military jeeps stopped before us. Some soldiers got out of the jeeps and opened heavy fire with bullets and tear gas canisters directly at the demonstrators. Many of the protesters were choking on the gas, so then we headed in groups to the south.
We approached the monument located southeast of Beit Hanoun. The IOF, who we could see with our naked eyes, opened fire towards us again. We went to the south and reached a point about 200 meters away from the eastern separation fence. We had reached the outskirts of the Abu Safiya area, east of Jabaliya and southeast of Beit Hanoun. The IOF continued its firing at us. We had moved about 8,000 meters along the length of the separation fence. We decided to leave the area at around 1:40 pm on the same day.”
This is the first time that the IOF has fired tear gas canisters at this demonstration, and the second time that the demonstrators have been forced to walk this great a distance retreating from IOF fire