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Human rights activist’s fury at ‘brutal regime’ in West Bank

Important reminder: Gordon Bennett

Important reminder: Gordon Bennett

A human rights activist from Preston has spoken out about what he calls the “brutal” tactics of the Israeli security forces.

According to Gordon Bennett, 45, a new Amnesty International report published this week documented many of the tactics that he says he saw first-hand.

In 2012 Mr Bennett was detained by Israeli security forces at a protest against a road closure in the village of Kufr Qadum in the West Bank.

After being jailed for two days, he was held under house arrest for a week. He had been volunteering with the International Solidarity Movement.

Mr Bennett said: “This report is an important reminder of what’s happening in the West Bank, showing why people like me travel thousands of miles to offer our solidarity with the Palestinian people.

“In the five months I spent in the West Bank, I saw trigger-happy Israeli soldiers at peaceful protests every week.

“As soon as a demonstration starts, you get gassed, shot at with rubber-coated metal bullets, and attacked with foul-smelling ‘skunk’ water.

“One week, in the village of Nabi Saleh, my friend and I were running away from soldiers who were shooting at us - she got hit three times and was hospitalised.

“Sometimes I saw live ammunition being used. It’s not surprising so many Palestinians have been killed and injured.

“It’s bad enough when you’re out in the open, like at demonstrations near the Wall. When you’re in narrow village streets, with tear gas canisters flying by at head height, it’s terrifying. These brutal tactics are what Palestinians face every week.”

Mr Bennett was arrested while documenting Israeli army violence at the village of Kufr Qadum.

He added: “I saw Palestinians throwing stones, usually after being gassed and shot at. But Israeli soldiers are never in any real danger from stone-throwing. They’re too far away and well protected.

“Stone-throwing is more a symbolic act of resistance than anything else.”

Bennett, who works at Amnesty’s UK office in London, added: “Of course I work at Amnesty and I strongly believe in human rights, but I can certainly confirm that these new Amnesty findings very much tally with my own experiences.

“When I was in the West Bank I was with the ISM volunteers, people from all over the world. Though we were at risk of injury and arrest, it’s far worse and far more dangerous for local Palestinians.”

The new 85-page Amnesty International report, Trigger-happy: Israel’s use of excessive force in the West Bank - claims that there has been mounting bloodshed in occupied areas.

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