An American demonstrator and former member of the UC Berkeley tree sit sustained life-threatening injuries Friday in a clash between protesters and Israeli troops over Israel's West Bank separation barrier.
Tristan Anderson, 38, of Oakland was struck in the right temple with a tear-gas canister fired by Israeli troops, according to friends and peace activists with the International Solidarity Movement.
His skull was fractured and some of the bone fragments entered his brain, friends said. He sustained a large hole in his forehead where he was struck by the canister and his right eye was also badly injured, friends said. He underwent surgery to have part of his frontal lobe removed, said Anderson's Oakland housemate John Love.
"They said the surgery went as well as it can, but there is just no telling with brain surgery if he will make it," Love said. "The next 48 hours are critical and if he makes it "... it will be a long haul back to normal. They don't know whether they can save the eye."
Berkeley activist Matthew Taylor spoke to Gabrielle Silverman, who said she was with Anderson when he was hit while at a demonstration in a West Bank village to support the villagers, who have been trying to stop Israel from confiscating their farmland to build the separation barrier.
"At the time he was shot, Tristan and I were standing in a field getting tear gassed by the Israeli army. When they shot him, the Israeli army was in no danger whatsoever, there was no action happening anywhere," she told Taylor.
Silverman said the military shot him either because they thought he was a Palestinian or because the army was indiscriminately firing into the crowd. The military had no details on how he was hurt.
Orly Levi, a spokeswoman at the Tel Hashomer hospital near Tel Aviv, described Anderson's condition as "life-threatening."
"He's in critical condition, anesthetized and on a ventilator and undergoing imaging tests," Levi said.
The protest took place in the West Bank town of Naalin, where Palestinians and international backers frequently gather to demonstrate against the barrier. Israel says the barrier is necessary to keep Palestinian attackers from infiltrating into Israel. But Palestinians view it as a thinly veiled land grab because it juts into the West Bank at multiple points. The military says the area where the protests take place is a closed military zone off-limits to demonstrations
Activist Marcus Kryshka of Oakland said this was Anderson's first trip to the West Bank.
About 400 protesters turned out in Naalin Friday, the military said. Some of them hurled rocks at troops, who used riot gear to quell the unrest, it added, without elaborating.
Friends who know Anderson through the tree sit at UC Berkeley to protest the building of a sports training center, called him a committed man who demonstrates on behalf of many causes.
"Tristan is a very caring committed man who has given to his community and taken stands on social and environmental justice around the world,'' said Taylor. "He's protested against free trade that exploits the global south, he's protested against the Iraq war and he got shot in the head trying to save Palestine land from being stolen by the Israeli military."
Bay Area activist Kate Raphael said Anderson originally hails from Grass Valley, where she believes his family still resides. "I'm told his parents were expecting to be headed to Israel."
Anderson, who was known as "Cricket," was part of the 21-month tree sit as a tree sitter and supporter. He came down from his perch on June 19 and was given a stay-away order but was found near the tree sit the following day, said UC Police Assistant Chief Mitch Celaya. He was arrested for violating the order and went through a trial, where he was found not guilty, friends said. The protest ended in September when the university raised the trees.
He has also been active with Food Not Bombs, bicycle activism, Direct Action to Stop the War and homeless advocacy, friends said.
"He's very gregarious, very friendly, quite energetic, very dedicated. When he gets committed to something, he tends to work very hard on it whether that be a personal relationship or a political one," said activist Kryshka, adding that Anderson was working on a memoir of his experiences as an activist trying to right some of the world's injustices.
Wire services contributed to this report.