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Israeli forces suppress weekly Bilin, Kafr Qaddum protests

Jan. 6, 2017 7:12 P.M. (Updated: Jan. 9, 2017 8:09 P.M.)
BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) -- Israeli forces Friday suppressed weekly marches in the village of Bilin in the occupied West Bank district of Ramallah and in the village of Kafr Qaddum in the northern West Bank district of Qalqiliya, causing dozens to suffer tear gas inhalation.

In Bilin, Israeli forces fired tear gas canisters and sound bombs at demonstrators, causing tens of Palestinian, foreign, and Israeli protesters to suffer from tear gas inhalation during a weekly march held in the village.

The march was organized by the popular committee against the separation wall and settlements. Protesters held up the Palestinian flag to mark the 52nd anniversary of the establishment of the Fatah movement, and also held pictures of slain Palestinian Jawahir Abu Rahma, in a repeat of a similar protest held last month to mark the upcoming anniversaries.

Jan. 1, 1965 has been officially recognized as the start of the longstanding Palestinian revolution against Israeli colonization of Palestinian lands, refugee rights, and the ensuing Israeli occupation, now entering its 50th year. The year was marked by the founding of the Fatah national party and the first Palestinian attack on Israeli military targets.

Meanwhile, Abu Rahma, 36, attended one of Bilin’s weekly marches in 2011. Israeli forces fired tear gas into the crowd of demonstrators, causing Abu Rahma to collapse. She was rushed to the hospital and died the next morning. Her brother, local activist Bassem Abu Rahma, had also been killed at a weekly demonstration in Bilin in 2009 after he was struck in the chest by a high-velocity tear gas canister.

Protesters marched in the village’s streets shouting national slogans and songs calling for national unity, continuing the resistance of the Israeli occupation, and releasing Palestinian prisoners.

Bilin is one of the most active Palestinian villages in peaceful organized opposition against Israeli policies, as residents have protested every Friday for 11 consecutive years, and have often been met with tear gas, rubber-coated steel bullets, and stun grenades from Israeli forces.

Story continues below.

Meanwhile, in the Kafr Qaddum village in the Qalqiliya district, Israeli forces fired tear gas canisters at a group of Palestinians and international solidarity activists demonstrating as part of a weekly march held in the village against Israeli settlement activities and the 14-year closure of the village’s main entrance, causing a number of them to suffer tear gas inhalation.

Popular resistance coordinator in the village Murad Shteiwi told Ma’an that Israeli forces, escorted by Israeli military vehicles and bulldozers, raided the village and fired tear gas canisters, sound bombs and rubber-coated steel bullets at the protesters.

He added that a number of Israeli soldiers raided the home of Helmi Shteiwi, and also attempted to ambush several youths to detain them. However, no detentions were reported.

Palestinian living in Kafr Qaddum demanded authorities, ministries, and children’s rights groups to immediately intervene in Israeli activities in the village in order to protect children from repeated violations.

They highlighted an Israeli military raid early Thursday when Israeli forces broke into the home of Hikmat Shteiwi, locked his wife in one of the rooms, and proceeded to interrogate their son Tariq, 13, and Malik, 12, for allegedly participating in one of the village’s weekly marches, Shteiwi said at the time.

Last month, Israeli forces, wearing matching plain clothes and black ski masks detained a seven-year-old Palestinian during a weekly protest in the village. A video of the incident was taken by a volunteer of the Israeli human rights group B’Tselem and quickly went viral. Rights groups and activists have pointed out that the video seems to show the soldiers using the child as a human shield during clashes.

B’Tselem strongly condemned the incident at the time, saying that “it does not take a lawyer to know that the detention of a seven-year-old child by soldiers, keeping him by their side as they shoot at his friends, is deplorable and utterly unacceptable.”

Residents of Kafr Qaddum began staging weekly protests in 2011 against land confiscations, as well as the closure of the village's southern road by Israeli forces. The road, which has been closed 14 years, is the main route to the nearby city of Nablus, the nearest economic center.

The Israeli army blocked off the road after expanding the illegal Israeli settlement of Kedumim in 2003, forcing village residents to take a bypass road in order to travel to Nablus, which has extended the travel time to Nablus from 15 minutes to 40 minutes, according to B’Tselem.

Hundreds of Palestinians have been detained during the demonstrations since their start in 2011, and at least 84 protesters have been injured by live fire, including 12 children, Shteiwi told Ma'an during a similar protest last year.

Some 120 others have been detained at demonstrations and were subsequently held in Israeli custody for periods ranging between four and 24 months, Shteiwi said at the time, adding that they have paid fines totaling some 25,000 shekels (approximately $6,488).

Over the course of five years, an elderly protester was killed after suffering from excessive tear gas inhalation, one youth lost his eyesight, and another his ability to speak, he added.
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