41. Friday Clashes
Bethlehem, West Bank - Palestine
Giclée print on Hahnemühle photo rag paper
30 x 42 cm
5/5 edition (+ AP)
A Palestinian youth picks up and 'returns' an active tear gas canister fired by Israeli border guards in Bethlehem, while a motorcyclist casually rides past unfazed by the violence on the street.
Every week after Friday prayers, groups of Palestinian youths travel to the Hebron Road near the Jacir Palace hotel. At this location an Israeli watchtower and large steel gate mark the point of furthest ingress the Separation barrier makes into Bethlehem. The Friday clashes here have become such a weekly routine that the news crews set up know when to set up in advance for the best footage.
The clashes also play out similarly each week. The shebab (Palestinian youths) will begin to show up in small groups. From a range of 100 metre, some begin to throw and sling stones at the 8 metre high concrete wall. Glass marbles launched from slingshots also come into play. Israeli soldiers watch with binoculars, cameras and sniper rifles from the watchtower. Initially, soldiers and border guards fire tear gas over the gate before opening a small armoured window in the gate and shooting through that. After an hour or so, the soldiers open the gate and move onto the street totally unfazed by any stones or marbles. The shebab set fire to tyres to create smoke screen and set up barricades of dumpster bins to protect from rubber and foam tipped bullets. Tear gas canisters and stones fly back and forth for some time punctuated by rubber bullets. Behind the shebab, members of the Palestinian Red Crescent are ready with their ambulances to take victims of tear gas inhalation and gunshot wounds to the hospital. Towards the late afternoon, the Israelis race out their jeeps with VENOM launchers filled to the roofs. These devices fire dozens of tear gas canisters in one barrage blanketing the street in an impenetrable cloud of gas. This happens several times before both sides slowly begin to retire. On occasion, the security forces will also use their 'skunk' water cannon truck and or live ammunition. The later inevitably results in the injuries or deaths amongst the Palestinian youths.
In this photo the youth's face has been obscured to protect his identity. Israeli security forces in the past have used photographs of underaged Palestinian youths around or participating in clashes to justify arrest or administrative detention. This is a serious concern during the age where images can travel far and fast via social media. I kept the image in this exhibition to highlight this issue.