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From the field

IDF soldiers fire at peaceful demonstrators in Deir Qaddis, wounding some, March 2004

Muhammad Nasser, shot in the head with a plastic bullet, age 51, resident of Deir Qaddis, Ramallah District

Muhammad Nasser

In early March [2004], the Israeli authorities began excavation work to erect the separation fence in a-Thaher, Khillat al-Mis, and a-Ras a-Saghir, areas that are part of Deir Qaddis. Since then, village residents have demonstrated a few times in protest against expropriation of the land. If the fence ends up being built according to the existing plan, more than two-thirds of the village's land will be on the other side of the fence. That means some 2,000 dunams [500 acres] of land, which contain about 10,000 olive trees, will be separated from the village. Olive groves provide the main source of the villagers' income.

The local citizens' committee organized to take action against the fence. They organized a demonstration for today [Monday, 15 March] and called on the villagers to go to the village's mosque and to walk from there in protest against the excavation work taking place south of the village. Around 7:00 A.M. this morning, I went to the mosque. Around 600 villagers, young and old, men and women, gathered in the courtyard and then walked along a dirt road toward Khillat al-Mis, about 200 meters south of the village. We waved Palestinian flags and placards opposing the fence as we marched. When we got there, I saw five bulldozers, an army jeep, and six soldiers. The bulldozers stopped, and one of the soldiers, who was short, dark-skinned, of medium build, and about 27 years old, came toward us and shouted in Arabic: "Stop, stop." We stopped. He aimed his rifle at us and said, "If anybody takes one more step forward, I'll shoot him." He was standing around three meters from us. Some of the demonstrators argued with him in Arabic and told him that they were conducting a peaceful demonstration.

We sat on the ground and did not move. The soldier went over to the jeep, which was about four meters from us. He took a tear gas grenade and hurled it at us. The organizers of the demonstration asked us not to respond. We stayed where we were, even though some of us were choking and our eyes were burning. The other soldiers retreated about twenty meters, apparently fearing that one of us would throw the grenade back at them.

A soldier said in Arabic: "I will count to five, and if you do not move from here, I will fire at you." He said it to frighten us, but the threat did not impress us, and we stayed where we were. The soldier counted to five and then fired one shot at us. The bullet hit the left hand of Khader 'Awwad, 34. We got up and shouted, "Praise God, Praise God." The organizers demanded that we not move, not leave the site, and not respond to the soldiers.

I, too, asked the residents not to respond, so as not to give the soldiers the excuse to break up the demonstration. The soldier again counted to five and then fired another bullet, and then once again, making a total of three shots. Within three minutes, about twenty more soldiers arrived. They came from the direction of the settlement Kiryat Sefer. They began to beat us with clubs and rifle butts, and pushed us back.

We backed up because we were afraid that the soldiers would injure us. I backed up around 2-3 meters from the soldiers. They kept coming at us. Suddenly, I felt a blow to the back of my head. It felt as if my head was exploding. I put my hands to my head and felt lots of blood flowing from it. I did not faint, but I was very dizzy and nauseous, and fell to the ground, on my side. I shouted, "My head is exploding." Some guys picked me up and rushed me back to the village. Other guys took Khader 'Awwad. We got to the southern entrance to the village and waited for a car to take us to the hospital. After waiting around five minutes, some guys brought my son, As'ad, 17, who had also taken part in the demonstration. He had been hit in the left shoulder by a rubber bullet. Five more minutes passed before a car appeared. It came from the direction of Na'alin. The driver was on his way to Ramallah, and he agreed to take the three of us to the hospital there.

At 8:00 A.M., while on our way to Ramallah, we came upon an ambulance of the Palestinian Medical Relief Committees. The three of us got in, and it took us to the hospital. The ambulance crew gave us first aid on the way. We reached the hospital at 9:00. The staff at the hospital gave me tests and X-rayed me. I later underwent surgery to remove the plastic bullet that had penetrated the back of my skull. The wound was described as moderate and did not cause me significant injury. I am still in the hospital. My son and Khader 'Awwad, both of whom were hit by rubber bullets, suffered light injuries. They were treated and released.

Muhammad 'Ali 'Omar Nasser, 51, is married and the father of eight. He works as a clerk, and is a resident of Deir Qaddis.

The testimony was taken by Iyad Haddad at a-Sheikh Za'id Hospital on 15 March 2004./>