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Six Palestinians injured, peace activist detained in Friday protests

May 13, 2016 8:45 P.M. (Updated: June 3, 2016 7:33 P.M.)
BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- Israeli forces injured six Palestinians and detained a Palestinian peace activist on Friday during weekly protests across the occupied West Bank and Gaza, just days before Palestinians around the world prepare for the 68th commemoration of the 1948 Nakba.

Israeli forces injured two Palestinians during a protest in Kafr Qaddum in the northern West Bank district of Qalqiliya, and dozens of demonstrators suffered from tear gas inhalation.

Murad Shtewei, a coordinator for the Popular Resistance Committee, told Ma’an Israeli forces “heavily” sprayed sponge-tipped and live bullets at the demonstrators, injuring a 26-year-old after a sponge-tipped bullet struck his head and shooting an 18-year-old in the foot with a live bullet. Both were taken to the Rafidia hospital in Nablus for treatment.

Israeli forces also showered the demonstrators with hundreds of tear gas canisters as Israeli military jeeps fired long-range canisters indiscriminately at the crowd, with many smashing through windows of nearby houses. The canisters reportedly struck the homes of Abdullah Juma and Abdullah Ali and caused their families to suffer from tear gas inhalation.

Meanwhile, Israeli forces lightly wounded a Palestinian as dozens of others suffered tear gas inhalation during a weekly march in the village of Bilin in the central West Bank.

A well-known Palestinian peace activist, Abdullah Abu Rahma, was detained after Israeli forces reportedly beat him. An Israeli peace activist was also detained as Israeli forces attempted to disperse the march.

Israeli soldiers fired rubber-coated steel bullets, long-range tear gas, and stun grenades at the demonstrators as they neared Israel’s separation wall, locals told Ma’an. Bilin’s municipal council member, Basim Yasim, was also reportedly struck with a tear gas canister on his hand.

Witnesses added that the indiscriminate usage of tear gas led to a fire erupting in the village’s olive groves near the western part of the village.

In Gaza, a Palestinian was injured after a live bullet struck him in the foot during clashes with Israeli forces east of al-Bureij refugee camp in the central Gaza Strip. He was taken to the Shuhada al-Aqsa hospital for treatment.

Two more Palestinians were injured during clashes in the besieged enclave. However, details were not yet known.

An Israeli army spokesperson told Ma’an that Israeli forces used "crowd dispersal means" against Palestinian demonstrators in Kafr Qaddum and Bilin before shooting .22-caliber live bullets into the crowds in response to an "escalation of violence." The spokesperson added she was still looking into reports on the demonstrations in the besieged Gaza Strip.

Residents of Kafr Qaddum and Bilin are among many in Palestinian communities in the occupied West Bank who carry out weekly Friday demonstrations in opposition to the decades-long Israeli military occupation.

Meanwhile, Palestinians in the Gaza Strip crowd near the borders with Israel every Friday to show solidarity with what Palestinians in the besieged coastal enclave have termed the “Jerusalem Intifada” taking place in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem.

Demonstrations this week came just two days before millions of Palestinians and rights activists are expected to commemorate the 1948 Nakba, when some 750,000 Palestinians were expelled from their lands in 1948 and remain scattered across refugee camps in the occupied West Bank, the Gaza Strip, Jordan, Lebanon, and Syria, according to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA).

Nearly 1,700 Palestinians have been injured by Israeli forces since the start of this year, the majority during clashes that broke out with the Israeli military during protests in the occupied West Bank, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

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