Israeli police wound dozens of Palestinian workers protesting near crossing

Fayha Shalash

Middle East Eye  /  August 29, 2023

 Palestinians protest Israeli authorities preventing buses from taking them to work inside Israel.

Israeli border police attacked Palestinian workers near the northern crossing of Qalqilya city, in the northern occupied West Bank, wounding dozens on Tuesday morning.

Dozens of workers had closed part of Route 55, adjacent to the Eyal crossing, one of the main checkpoints between Israel and the West Bank, after Israeli police prevented buses and other vehicles from transporting them to their places of work inside Israel. 

Hundreds of Israeli border guards arrived at the scene to suppress the protest, wounding dozens of workers and vehicle owners, who were then transferred to Darwish Nazzal Government Hospital in Qalqilya.

Israeli authorities had stopped the buses they claim are operating without a licence or are transporting workers without permits.

Without buses and other designated vehicles, Palestinians working in Israel have no other available means to reach their jobs after they cross the checkpoint.

Like every morning, Zuhdi Abu Taha, 34, was on his way to the crossing to get to work. He was surprised by the presence of dozens of workers on the main street and a large number of Israeli soldiers.

“Suddenly the soldiers started firing sound and tear gas grenades at us. I felt something hit my face and blood filled my mouth, causing severe, unbearable pain, when a stun grenade exploded next to me,” Abu Taha told Middle East Eye.

Abu Taha was first transferred to the government hospital with a laceration to the lower lip, a wide cut to the upper one, a broken jaw and broken teeth. But due to the severity of his injuries, he was then taken to a private hospital in Nablus for urgent surgery. 

More than 20 workers suffered suffocation and bruises during the attack, which led to confrontations in the area that lasted for more than an hour.

According to Abu Taha, the assault on workers is nothing new, even though they hold the necessary permits.

Every morning they wait for several hours at the crossing before they are allowed to enter, which often leads workers to suffer shortness of breath, and, in some cases, heart attacks.

Palestinian workers accuse Israel of intentional abuse and mistreatment, and of neglecting their labour rights and public safety measures, the lack of which puts their lives in constant danger. 

Shaher Saad, the secretary-general of the General Federation of Palestinian Trade Unions, described the attack against Palestinian workers who are looking to make a living under difficult circumstances as brutal.

He said in a press statement that the Israeli authorities have cancelled the buses that transport workers as a form of collective punishment.

He also called on the International Labour Organization and the International Trade Union Confederation to intervene immediately and urgently protect workers who enter Israel for work.

Fayha Shalash is a journalist based in Ramallah