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Gas canister injures anti-wall protester in Bil'in

April 23, 2010 2:56 P.M. (Updated: April 27, 2010 2:28 P.M.)
Bethlehem - Ma'an - A Palestinian citizen of Israel was injured by a high-velocity tear-gas canister during a protest against the separation wall in the West Bank village of Bil'in on Friday, witnesses and Israel's army said.

Emad Rezqa, 43, from Yaffa in Israel, was hit in the forehead by an aluminum tear-gas projectile shot directly at him by soldiers, the Popular Struggle Coordination Committee reported.

He was hospitalized at the Hadassa Ein Karem hospital in Jerusalem with a fractured skull and brain hemorrhage, the committee stated. An Israeli military spokesman, quoting medics, described Rezqa's injuries as light, and said he was evacuated by Israeli medics.

The march, which commenced at the village's mosque after the midday prayer, was attacked with tear gas some 30 seconds after reaching the gate in the wall, despite the fact that it was entirely peaceful, the committee stated. The gas forced most of the participants to retreat back toward the village, but a smaller group managed to stay by the gate, chanting and shouting slogans.

A few minutes after, a group of soldiers began firing a second round of projectiles, this time directly at the demonstrators from a distance of about 30 meters, according to the committee. Rezqa was hit and quickly evacuated to the Ramallah hospital with blood gushing from his forehead. He was transferred to the Hadassa Ein Karem hospital after being x-rayed and diagnosed as suffering a broken skull.

Following Rezqa's injury, soldiers invaded Bil'in through the gate in the wall and arrested four protesters who were staging a sit-in some 100 meters away as well as a journalist who was next to them, the committee said.

Three others, including one international, one Israeli, and a 70-year-old Palestinian, were also injured by tear-gas canisters. The three were treated by medics in the village, witnesses said. The army spokesman said the military was only aware of one other injury, a Palestinian man who suffered tear-gas inhalation.

The Yaffa man and his wife were participating in the protest concluded the three-day International Bil'in Conference on Popular Struggle, and was attended by hundreds of people including intellectuals speaking about popular resistance in the Palestinian context.

Four others were detained during the rally, including a photojournalist from the Palestinian Arabic daily Al-Haya Al-Jadida identified as Muhib Al-Barghouthi, witnesses said, while the military spokesman said six were detained for refusing to leave the area when presented with a closed military zone order. He reported that all were taken for questioning, while some were released and others taken elsewhere.

"I don't know why they would use so many canisters today," a conference organizer said. "With hundreds of Israelis and internationals at the protest, someone was sure to get hurt."

American activist Tristan Anderson was hit with a canister fired from the same type of weapon more than a year ago, on 13 March 2009. The canister cracked his skull and damaged his brain. He remains in a coma in Tel Aviv, while his family waits for his condition to stabilize enough for him to be transported home.

Photographs of the event, taken by a bystander, can be accessed here.
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