Today, I joined up with Abbas once more and headed to the village of Billin to cover the latest round of weekly clashes with the Israeli Defence Force soldiers.
Different to last week, the routine at Billin is to approach the wall along a dirt track until you reach the barbed wire-topped fence that marks the controversial line between the West Bank and Israel. Once there, the locals try to cross through the gate, waving flags, to which the IDF soldiers react with the ever-popular cocktail of tear gas and flash bang charges. I’d actually managed to forget what the gas tasted like until the first cloud hit us before I’d had chance to get my mask on. Yum.
It seems that I must have some kind of Israeli homing beacon attached to me somewhere as, again, a soldier decided to take a shot at me. Now, I’m glad to say that this will be my last gas-filled protest of the assignment as this was decidedly close. After a few minutes of the first charge being fired, I heard a shot so ducked and immediately heard something whistle very loudly over my head. At this point, everyone around went “woahhh!” in a 3d cinema-audience stylee. Apparently, if I still had a head of hair, the tear gas canister would have given me a nice centre parting, passing 20cm over my head. Okaayyyy..
Aside from that little wake-up call, this weeks protest was less dramatic as the troops didn’t come through onto Palestinian land so after everyone had received a few good lungfuls of chemicals, the group started to fade back into the village. With a few remaining youths continuing their slingshot fire, we headed back to the car and off in search of drinks to wash away that marvellous taste I’ll miss so much. I wonder if it’s available as a roll-on?