Saturday, March 14, 2009

Israel shoots U.S. peace activist in the head, as he stands near a masjid.

"...Protesters said Tristan Anderson was hit in the head with a tear gas canister. The military had no details on how he was hurt. The protest took place Friday in the town of Naalin, which is the scene of frequent protests by Palestinians and international backers against Israel's West Bank separation barrier. The barrier is running through farmland belonging to the town. The military says the area is a closed military zone and has banned demonstrations. (AP Photo / Arafat Kana'an)"


"American wounded by Israeli troops has surgery"

RAMALLAH, West Bank (AP) — An American activist who was struck in the head by a tear gas canister fired by Israeli troops in the West Bank was in serious condition Saturday after undergoing extensive surgery, hospital officials said.

Tristan Anderson, 38, of Oakland, Calif., was wounded Friday in the West Bank village of Naalin, during a protest against Israel's separation barrier. In the past year, four Palestinians have been killed and scores injured by Israeli troops putting down weekly stone-throwing protests against the barrier, which cuts off Naalin from 300 acres of olive groves.

On Friday, several hundred protesters — Palestinians as well as Israeli and foreign activists — marched from the village toward the barrier. The Israeli military said there was heavy stone-throwing and troops fired tear gas to break up the protest. Demonstrators described sporadic stone-throwing and said troops quickly pushed the protesters back toward the village.

Anderson did not throw stones at any point, said Jonathan Pollack, an Israeli activist who was in Naalin at the time.

The American was standing near the Naalin mosque, as the protest was winding down, when he was struck by the tear gas canister, said a friend, Gabrielle Silverman, who was several feet away from him. "Nothing was happening in the immediate area where we were, or anywhere else," Silverman said Saturday.

Anderson was hit in the forehead and fell to the ground. The fist-sized canister fractured his skull, and he bled heavily, Silverman said.

Palestinian medics rushed to the scene, and troops kept firing tear gas as Anderson was being moved into a Palestinian ambulance, Silverman said.

Palestinian vehicles are not permitted to enter Israel. Pollack said the ambulance carrying Anderson had to wait 15 minutes at an Israeli checkpoint, until an Israeli ambulance arrived to take him Tel Hashomer Hospital near Tel Aviv.

Anderson underwent extensive surgery, said Orly Levi, a Tel Hashomer spokeswoman. He remained in serious condition Saturday. Silverman, who accompanied Anderson to the hospital, said skull fragments and a portion of his right frontal lobe were removed. She said he also suffered major trauma to the bone surrounding his right eye.

Anderson and Silverman arrived in the region in February and had planned to spend three months in Israel, the Palestinian territories and neighboring countries, Silverman said.

Anderson sets up convention booths for a living, said Silverman, who is also from Oakland.

His injury revived long-standing complaints by human rights activists that Israeli troops often use excessive force in dispersing protests in the West Bank. Of four Palestinians killed in Naalin in the past year, three were struck by live fire.

The Israeli military says stone-throwing poses a threat to troops, and several officers have been injured by rocks.

In Friday's incident, troops used the permitted means of riot dispersal, the military said. This would include tear gas, rubber-coated steel pellets and stun grenades. Four Palestinians were injured by rubber bullets Friday, Naalin residents said.

Ahed Khawaja, a Palestinian coordinator of the Naalin protests, said about 450 people have been injured, 12 of them seriously, since the demonstrations began in April. The barrier near Naalin is about 80 percent complete, he said.

Israel says the barrier is a defense against Palestinian attackers infiltrating into Israel. But Palestinians view it as a thinly veiled land grab because it juts into the West Bank at multiple points.