Israeli soldiers fired rubber-tipped bullets at a Norwegian activist, wounding her, on two occasions while suppressing demonstrations in a West Bank Palestinian village this month. Kristen Foss, 43, was shot in the abdomen on August 18 and in the ankle last Friday, a week later.
Foss, a member of the International Solidarity Movement, is one of a number of foreign and Israeli activists who take part in the demonstrations in Kafr Qaddum to express solidarity with the residents’ demand for the reopening of the direct road to Nablus and access to their farmland. The road, and access to their fields, was blocked some 15 years ago to allow the expansion of the settlement of Kedumim. For around a decade, villagers have been demonstrating every Friday, and recently Saturday protests were added.
Weekly, the soldiers go into the village even before the protesters head toward the blocked road, clashing with the young men of Kafr Qaddum. The residents welcome the presence of outsiders, saying they serve as witnesses to the army’s actions.
Foss says that when she reached Kafr Qaddum on August 18, there had already been confrontations between soldiers and young men from the village. One group of soldiers was on the balcony of a home, another was on the street below. Foss and a second activist stood at a distance from the soldiers and the young villagers, but within sight of the soldiers. When the clashes died down, an old Palestinian man, whose car the soldiers had confiscated and were using as a shield, approached the two women.
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He asked them to come with him when he requested the return of his car. The three walked toward the soldiers, their hands in the air. Foss held her cellphone in one hand, filming the car and the soldiers. The car’s owner reached the soldiers before Foss and her colleague, who stopped around 20 meters from the man and the soldiers. One of the soldiers shouted at the two women in Hebrew. Foss shouted back that the man wants his car.
She says the soldier shouted that the situation was dangerous and that she replied, again shouting, that the only danger was the rifle he was pointing at her. She heard a single shot, followed by a second one that hit her belly. Foss was the only person who was shot that day.
Even though a mass that developed at the wound site had not yet disappeared, Foss returned to the village last Friday. Around 20 older Israeli activists (aged 50 to 70) from a group called Re’akha Kamokha” (“thy neighbor as thyself”) were already there. Nirit Haviv, one of the Israeli activists, told Haaretz that the soldiers walked into the village before the end of Friday prayers in the mosque and before the demonstration was set to start, and that young villagers threw rocks at them.
Haviv and three of her Israeli colleagues approached the soldiers to suggest that they move away, in order to prevent violence. A polite argument ensued, and Haviv asked the soldiers why they had shot a woman the previous week. She says one of them told her, “What are you talking about, we don’t shoot women unless she was standing next to the primary inciter.” The activists moved away at the request of the soldiers, who began firing tear gas and percussion grenades — followed by plastic-tipped bullets.
Kristen Foss told Haaretz that as soon as the tear gas grenades were fired, the young people dispersed. She got up and began to walk, and then felt the hit to her ankle. She was the first to be shot, and the first to be treated at the village’s small clinic. She was followed by a young man who was shot in the shoulder; an older man, who holds a flag during the protests was shot in the neck; and an 8-year-old boy who was shot in the back. The boy was shot while standing next to his father, Murad Eshtewi, one of the organizers of the protests. Foss, the boy and another injured person were taken to Nablus by ambulance, but at the exit from the village the driver was told to come back because another person had been shot by plastic-tipped bullets in three different places. Nine people in all were shot and wounded Friday.
On Thursday, in response to a question from Haaretz about the first incident, on August 18, the Spokesman’s Office of the Israel Defense Forces said that the “claims regarding the alleged injury to noncombatants by crowd dispersal means will be investigated."
On Saturday, referring to the second shooting of Foss, the IDF Spokesman’s Office said that violent disturbances have occurred every weekend for a long time. “On August 18 and 24, violent disturbances took place in the area of the village, in the course of which Palestinians, some of them masked, threw rocks at IDF soldiers and for the first time also burned tires. The claims regarding the alleged injury to noncombatants by crowd dispersal means will be investigated and the finding submitted to the Military Advocate General’s Office.”