At least 16 people, including 12 Palestinians and four British nationals, were hospitalized on Monday for injuries sustained during a violent, massive Israeli demolition operation in the occupied East Jerusalem town of Sur Bahir.
Hundreds of Israeli troops stormed the Wadi al-Hummus area of Sur Bahir in the predawn hours of Monday and began forcibly evicting Palestinian families from their homes in preparation for the demolition of 11 buildings in the area.
Locals told Mondoweiss at the time that armed Israeli soldiers forced their way into the homes and were “extremely aggressive” as they removed residents and foreign activists who had barricaded themselves inside in solidarity.
The International Solidarity Movement (ISM) reported that 12 Palestinians, whose identities remained unknown, were hospitalized after Israeli forces kicked them in the back down flights of stairs. Two others were reportedly shot at close range with rubber-coated steel bullets.
ISM added that four of the group’s British activists were hospitalized at the Makassed Hospital in East Jerusalem after the were “stamped on, dragged by the hair, strangled with a scarf and pepper sprayed by Israeli border police.”
They were identified as Bethany Rielly, 25, Beatrice-Lily Richardson, 27, Chris Lorigan, 30, and Gabriella Jones, 20.
The group were participating in a 30-person sit-in along with French and American activists at the home of Wadi al-Hummus resident Ismail Obeidi in the hopes that their presence could help delay the demolition of Obeidi’s home.
According to ISM, dozens of Israeli soldiers broke down the door to Obeidi’s home at around 5am, and immediately pepper-sprayed Obeidi in the face as he stood in the doorway with his hands up.
“They used excessive force, seemingly with enjoyment, whilst firing tear gas into the enclosed space and brutalising Palestinians and international activists,” ISM said.
Rielly, Richardson, Lorigan, and Jones had closed themselves off in a “small unventilated bathroom” when a soldier reportedly opened the door and threw a tear gas canister inside.
“When the soldiers found us in the bathroom, they threw multiple tear gas canisters and shut the door. As we started to suffocate in the smallest room in the house, soldiers burst in and dragged us violently, pulling at every possible part, regardless of safety or policy,” ISM quoted Lorigan as saying.
Lorigan told ISM that Israeli soldiers dragged him by his feet, lifted him up, and kicked him in the stomach, while one soldier stamped on his head four times “at full force” before standing on his head and pulling his hair.
“He then stamped on my throat and others started punching my torso. It was a sadistic display of violence by the border police,” Lorigan said.
ISM added that while Richardson was being dragged out of the house, her hands were crushed so badly that she suffered a fractured knuckle on her left hand, and her right hand suffered severe tissue damage “which will be permanently misshapen unless she gets cosmetic surgery.”
During the attack, Israeli soldiers pepper-sprayed Jones in the face and ripped open her shirt, revealing her bra, and grabbed her so tightly that visible bruises were left on her arm.
Rielly, who was dragged out by the scarf around her neck and then by her hair, told ISM that when she began screaming, a soldier crushed her neck under his knee.
She added that as she was being dragged out, she heard soldiers laughing at her.
“I couldn’t believe the pure aggression they were using against us. I was in such a state of shock the whole time that I couldn’t open my eyes,” Rielly told ISM.
“We were unarmed civilians using peaceful means to try and delay them destroying Ismail and his family’s home that they worked so hard to build. Hundreds of soldiers were bussed in to do this. Is a house demolition a military operation anywhere else in the world? This is the reality of life for Palestinians living under Israeli occupation,” she said.
According to testimonies from ISM activists stationed in other rooms of Obeidi’s house, Israeli soldiers continued their acts of aggression even after the Palestinians in the house held their hands up and agreed to leave voluntarily.
One unnamed American activist said that the soldiers were grabbing people’s fingers, “appearing as though they intended to break them.”
“Then we got to the stairs and they were kicking us down the stairs in the lower back and several of the Palestinian boys they kicked so hard that they tumbled down the stairs and this was when there was no resistance at all going on,” the activist told ISM.
ISM noted that it had activists from Spain, Britain, and Austria stationed in another house belonging to Ghaleb Abu Hadwan and his four daughters, son, and grandfather.
Edmond Sichrovsky, an Austrian activist of Jewish origin, who was in the house said that Israeli forces broke into the home and first dragged out the Palestinians, “knocking the grandfather to the floor in front of his crying and screaming grandchildren.”
According to Sichrovsky, everyone with a cellphone was then forcibly removed before soldiers began attacking him and four other activists.
“I was repeatedly kicked and kneed, which left a bloody nose and multiple cuts, as well breaking my glasses from a knee in the face. Once outside, they slammed me against a car while shouting verbal insults at me and women activists, calling them whores,” he said.
In it’s statement documenting the account of it’s activists, ISM said: “Yesterday’s demolition of Wadi al-Hummus has made national news but due to the lack of media presence inside the family homes the extent of the violence and sadism perpetrated by IOF on Palestinian citizens and international activists has remained largely unreported.”
While sharing the personal stories of their activists, ISM noted the importance of recognizing the fact that it is “incomparable” to the daily treatment of Palestinians by the Israeli occupation
“17 people including Mr Obedi, his wife and their six children are now homeless as well as the family of Mr Hadwan,” ISM said.
“Evidence of the ongoing ethnic cleansing of Palestine is more apparent than ever in efforts like the destruction of these three blocks in Wadi al-Hummus, and hundreds more demolition orders, by the Israeli government.”