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Dozens hit by CS gas during anti-wall demonstrations

Aug. 22, 2009 7:54 P.M. (Updated: Aug. 23, 2009 5:00 P.M.)
Bethlehem - Ma'an - Dozens were hurt by tear-gas canisters fired by Israeli soldiers during weekly protests against the separation barrier across the West Bank on Friday, demonstrators said.

In Bil'in, a village near Ramallah, protesters claimed in a statement that Israeli forces fired CS tear gas when they approached the under-construction wall that separates residents from some 60 percent of their land.

The same morning, soldiers raided Bil'in and arrested Mohammed Ibrahim Abu Rahma, 48, the vice president of the village council and leader in the Popular Committee Against the Wall. "Thus this raid is targeting the members of the People's Committee in order to stop their resistance against the occupation," the group's statement said.

The day before, Israel's military released without charge Basil Naim Bernat, who spent 39 days at Ofer prison and was forced to pay a fine of 7,000 Israeli shekels (about 1,800 US dollars). A child, Nashmi Mohammed Abu Rahma, was also freed on Thursday after his family paid 5,000 shekels (about 1,300 dollars). Nashmi had been jailed for five days.

Soldiers also freed Basil Naim Bernat, a local movement leader, after he was made to pay 10,000 shekels (about 2,500 dollars). Although he was imprisoned for two weeks, the military said it was releasing him on the unusual condition that he agree not to participate in future demonstrations, and that he turn himself in each week between 12pm and 5pm to the nearest Israeli police center.

Meanwhile on Friday in Al-Mas'ara, a village near Bethlehem in the central West Bank, two Palestinians were injured in a weekly demonstration against the wall, protesters said, adding that they sustained bruises.

Joined by international peace activists, residents took to the streets and similarly attempted to reach land confiscated by the barrier but were blocked by soldiers who opened fire on the crowd, demonstrators said in a statement.

Witnesses said soldiers installed barbed wire at one entrance to the village and placed dirt mounds at another in an effort to quell the demonstrations, which have taken place each Friday for several months.

Protesters also challenged recent home demolitions and evictions in East Jerusalem, which Israel occupied in 1967, and commemorated the 40th anniversary of an arson attempt at the Al-Aqsa Mosque in 1969 by a Christian Zionist from Australia. According to Hasan Bureijeyah, who addressed the crowd, the European Union should intervene in Israel's latest limitations on entry visas, which preclude internationals from traveling between the West Bank and East Jerusalem, which was occupied in 1967.

Protests were reported elsewhere throughout the West Bank, including in Ni'lin, near Ramallah, and in Iraq Burin, a village close to Nablus. Ma'an's photographers were on the scene there, and documented soldiers firing gas at unarmed demonstrators. Palestinian youths were also filmed throwing rocks toward troops stationed at the nearby illegal settlement of Bracha.
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