I work at the Hebron Youth Development Resource Center and I live in what is known as Beit al Tafl, probably the biggest center for youth and children in the West Bank.
As we were about to finish work today, my collegues told me there were shootings and gas bombs thrown nearby by the Israeli soldiers because of the protests of civilians.
Men and women from the city have been protesting for several days in support of the Palestinian political prisoners gone on hunger strike. According to Palestinian News Network (PNN) more than 40 prisoners have been hospitalized after spending more than 30 days without any food; many of the protesting prisoners have been held in detention.
As we went outside to see what’s happening, the smell hit us immediately. The soldiers have been dispersing a chemically produced substance with extremely heavy smell, which makes you lose your breath, cough and experience various negative physical reactions.
As we moved towards the street, we could clearly see the soldiers who seemed to greatly outnumber the protesting crowd. I wondered why my colleague Omar brought us on the side of the soldiers and whether it was safe, but he assured us the international press was allowed on this side and it was okey to take photos and video for the sake of the freedom of the media.
I later met Mousa, a representative of the Roters agency, who gave us tips: “When they throw the gas bombs, the wind may direct it in the opposite way, so you have to run as far as possible”. “Don’t touch your eyes”.
The smell of animal dirt coming from the liquid dispersed towards the Palestinians was all around us, heavy and sticky.
I briefly saw one of the women protesters- an old woman, holding the photo of her son, held in jail because of his resistance towards the Israeli.
We soon decided to go back to the office. “Someone will get killed today”- Anas, my other colleague and friend said- “Two people were killed on Ras Eljora (the name of the street nearby a big check point) last year”. As we came back our female colleague Ayat complained about the way we smelled. We were lowered to animals without even being at the center of the action.
We soon decided to leave and all got in Omar’s car. I was going with my friend and volunteer Asala to join her family for dinner. As we came closer, we saw the soldiers on the groud with the guns in their hands, ready to shoot. Stones were thrown in the same direction fromyoung Palestinian boys. We drove closer to the Palestinian crowd as we wanted to get into the city.
For some reason we had to get out of the car and walk.
As I got off the car, gas bombs were thrown in our direction and teenage boys were holding stones to throw at the soldiers.
It was a great chaos.
Fear was so present and so was the need to hold on to each other and to look out for each other. I was trying to keep up with Anas who was walking ahead and looking back to see where Asala was.
There were some guys sitting nearby, quiet. They weren’t running away.
They must have been used to it.
In the evening the protests continued, but this time I was looking from the balcony of Asala’s house. The men were on horses; flags were raised in the sky, Allah was called for assistance.
It was just another day in Hebron.
In the forefront lines I observed with unbelief. Men were enemies.
Men were risking their lives, their futures, the futures of their not-yet-born daughters and sons.
And all I could think was: how is the world letting this happen?