Palestinian Youths Are Being Shot in the West Bank

Because bombing people in Gaza isn't enough.

The shooting of Rushdie Tamimi. He died two days later in hospital.

After a week of drones and heavy shelling, a calm fell over Gaza last night as the Israeli ceasefire took hold. Despite the truce, Gaza's brothers in the larger Palestinian territory of the West Bank are gearing up for another day of protest. West Bankers are no strangers to demonstrations against the Israeli occupation, and protest activity has intensified in the area since Gaza and Israel started trading rockets last week. Confrontations came to a head after the funeral of local hero Rushdie Tamimi, who was shot by Israeli forces at a peaceful protest in his hometown of Nabi Saleh. 

Pro-Palestinian Israeli activist Leehee Rothschild was in Nabi Saleh on Saturday when Rushdie was shot. I spoke to her straight after his funeral.

Rushdi Tamimi's funeral. Photo by Oren Ziv/Activestills.

VICE: I've been following your Twitter all day – it sounds like the protests are really kicking off in the West Bank. What's going on?
Leehee Rothschild: There were protests all over the West Bank on Saturday in solidarity with Gaza. The one in Nabi Saleh was particuarly large and the Israeli army reacted very, very violently to the demonstrations, in a way they wouldn’t normally dare to if it weren't for the military activity in Gaza. People in the West Bank think the Israeli forces feel that they can afford to crack down on the West Bank because of the operation in Gaza. In Nabi Saleh, they shot rubber bullets and live ammunition. 

A pretty influential guy was killed at that protest – what happened to him?
A local man called Rushdie Tamimi was shot several times. He kept getting up and falling back down while they shot him with live bullets. The Israeli Forces prevented medics from getting to him and treating him for a long time and he ended up dying on Tuesday from a bullet wound to his stomach. 

Jesus. Can you tell me a bit about the Tamimi family and why they’re so important?
Nabi Saleh is a small but active village and everyone there is from the Tamimi family in one way or another. The family are particularly active in non-violent struggle against the Israeli forces and, last year, Mustafa Tamimi was killed by the direct hit of a gas canister, so they've suffered a lot but they carry on. They're really inspiring. 

Palestinian youth clash with Israeli police after Rushdi Tamimi's funeral. Photo by Shachaf Polakow/Activestills. 

What happened at his funeral today? 
There was a huge demonstration in Nabi Saleh – with thousands of people – after his funeral. It started in Ramallah and went up to Nabi Saleh, quite similar to the funeral of Mustafa Tamimi last December. Before the peaceful demonstration even started, you could already see the soldiers waiting in position around the hills, because they knew that once the funeral was over the people would go out and protest. 

As soon as we walked towards the soldiers they started shooting a load of tear gas and rubber bullets, spraying us with skunk water and began to make their way closer and closer towards the village. Eventually the whole village was covered with tear gas and everybody was ducking around to avoid the rubber bullets. It was absolutely terrifying because you couldn’t see where they were shooting from. It was from all directions and there was nowhere to hide.

Is there a feeling that the Gaza violence is spilling over into the West Bank, or does the Gaza conflict feel removed from there? 
It's very difficult say. On the one hand, there’s no artillery fire or bombing on the West Bank, but the Israeli army are being much more violent towards people in there now because nobody’s watching what goes on. The killing of a protester in the West Bank doesn't usually go unnoticed, but because of the Gaza war, you don’t hear a reaction from the international media to the deaths of people like Rushdie Tamimi. It’s just one more Palestinian killed. It's overlooked because they’re killing numerous people in Gaza every day.

What do you expect to happen in the Bank in the next few days?
If the assault on Gaza carries on, then the West Bank demonstrations will certainly continue and the violence will escalate. We're nearing the end of the week and there are always large demonstrations in the West Bank after morning prayers on Friday, but I predict that protests this Friday will be bigger and met with more violence from Israeli forces. 

So what's the general feeling in the West Bank now?
Theres a lot of anger. There’s also a lot of worry, because of lot of people in the West Bank have family in Gaza. But there's also a lot of energy and a lot of inspiration. People are feeling a lot more active than normal and the protests will reflect that. 

Follow Alice on Twitter: @alicewagstaffe

Photos courtesy of Oren Ziv and Shachaf Polakow of Activestills. See more of their work here

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