NILIN, West Bank — For more than a year, this village has been a focus of weekly protests against the Israeli security barrier, which cuts through its lands. Now, the village appears to be at the center of an intensifying Israeli arrest campaign.
“These are not sit-ins with people singing ‘We Shall Overcome,’ ” said Maj. Peter Lerner, a spokesman for the Israeli Army’s Central Command, which controls the West Bank. “These are violent, illegal, dangerous riots.” Other Palestinians are “jumping on the bandwagon,” he said, and the protests “could slip out of control.”
“Israel recognizes the threat of the popular movement and its potential for expanding,” said Jonathan Pollak, an Israeli anarchist and spokesman of the Popular Struggle Coordination Committee, which is based in Ramallah. “I think the goal is to quash it before it gets out of hand.”
Israeli human rights groups like B’Tselem and Yesh Din have long complained of harsh measures used to quell the protests, including rubber bullets and .22-caliber live ammunition. The Israeli authorities say the live fire is meant to be used only in dangerous situations, and not for crowd control. But the human rights groups say that weapons are sometimes misused, apparently with impunity, with members of the security forces rarely held to account.
About a hundred soldiers and border police officers have been wounded in the clashes since 2008, according to the military. But the protesters are unarmed, their advocates argue, while the Israelis sometimes respond with potentially lethal force.