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Colorful day in Nabi Saleh

June 24, 2011 5:30 P.M. (Updated: June 25, 2011 5:33 P.M.)
BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- The children of An-Nabi Saleh set off with kites and painted faces to the village's hill shortly after noon on Friday.

An hour later, they were sheltering in a village house, while five Israeli military jeeps surrounded the location and fired tear gas towards them, according to eyewitness accounts.

Activists made sure the children were distracted by switching on cartoons, and while they recovered from tear gas inhalation, they reflected on an afternoon in which Israel's military faced down clowns and a boy painted as Spiderman, arresting one Israeli activist.

Freedom in Colors

Activists had planned a day of colorful dress, balloons, face masks, face paints and kite-flying. A Facebook group urged volunteers to "Bring Your colourful smile and join us in our struggle for freedom!!"

"Let’s make our freedom colourful," the page said.

After a morning painting faces and making kites, between 20 and 30 children and 40 volunteers headed to a village mountain to fly paper kites.

Rounds of tear gas

At around 12.30 p.m. Israeli soldiers stopped them at the intersection of the village fired tear gas at the group, activists said.

Soldiers shoved a man wearing a press jacket, and kicked one volunteer, leaving bruising, they said.

The Israeli troops then moved to the center of the village, and the children proceeded toward the hill. They were sitting in a group under an olive tree when forces surrounded the area and again fired tear gas, causing respiratory troubles, a witness recounted.

At around 1.30 p.m., soldiers detained Israeli activist Tal King.

The children returned to a house in the village, and when some youth began throwing stones, the soldiers again fired tear gas towards the house. Children who left the house and were singing in the streets were also fired upon with tear gas.

An Israeli army spokeswoman said "an Israeli rioter was arrested and detained on site," and indicated he was in Israeli police custody.

She added: "Tear gas was fired at rioters, not targeted at children. We aren’t familiar with a group of children at the riot. If there were children among the crowd, we have no way of knowing."

Palestinian Authority prime minister at Bil'in protest

Also Friday, PA Prime Minister Salam Fayyad attended a protest in Bil'in where 200 people had gathered to protest against the Israeli separation wall.

Eight people were injured including French activist, witnesses said.

An Israeli army spokeswoman said "200 rioters in Bil'in and Ni'lin were hurling rocks at security forces, who responded with riot dispersal means."
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