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Pro-settler groups march on Silwan, dozens injured

April 25, 2010 10:09 P.M. (Updated: April 26, 2010 1:04 P.M.)
Jerusalem – Ma'an – On-site medics said at least 30 protesters and two doctors were injured during clashes in the Al-Bustain neighborhood of Silwan, East Jerusalem on Sunday.

A series of counter-protests organized by Palestinians and solidarity activists when an Israeli pro-settler rally, scheduled to take place in the neighborhood that day, went ahead despite calls for its cancellation.

The protest was given official government permission after being postponed last month.

Dozens of Palestinian protesters closed off the entrance to the Al-Bustan neighborhood, the site of the pro-settler march, hurling stones and setting fire to tires as Israeli police attempted to disperse the gathering, Ma'an's correspondent reported.

Some 50 settlers and pro-settler activists, headed by extreme rightists Itamar Ben Gvir and Baruch Marzel, marched from the Old City to the center of Silwan, protesting what they termed "illegal construction" in the area, the Israeli daily Haaretz reported. The construction they referred to is the building of Palestinian homes without city permits.

The group also calls for the construction of more homes for Israelis in occupied East Jerusalem, which are illegal under international law.

Discord broke out in the Al-Bustan neighborhood in Silwan early on Sunday between Palestinian residents and Israeli police near a protest tent erected ahead of a far-right Israeli rally in the area.

Israeli police removed a number of pro-settler Israelis gathered in the center of the neighborhood, asking that they relocate to the main entrances as they were confronted by Palestinian protesters who raised flags, banging metal pans and objects together.

"We've proven to Netanyahu, Obama and Mitchell that we're the bosses in Jerusalem," said Ben Gvir during the march, the daily said.

Ambulance staff with the Burj Al-Laqlaq Tower Society said at least 20 protesters were treated for injuries, in addition to two of their own paramedics who were burned by rubber-coated bullets.

Medics from the Union of Arab Paramedics said their staff offered medical service to nine people most of who were also hit by rubber-coated bullets.

The Jerusalem Center for Social and Economic Rights quoted eyewitnesses as saying Israeli forces used riot dispersal mechanisms on the crowd, including tear-gas and rubber-coated bullets.

Sides prepared for conflict

Palestinians were said to have called on residents in Silwan to gather near the tent in order to block a "provocative" rally by Israeli religious extremists.

Mickey Rosenfeld, spokesman for the Israeli police, said "a number of stones" were thrown in the Al-Bustan but that the area "is relatively quiet."

Fatah's Jerusalem official Hatem Abdul Qader was reportedly detained at the entrance to Wadi Hilwa en route to Silwan by Israeli police. Rosenfeld said he would look into the report.

Meanwhile, residents in Silwan said hundreds of border guards, officers and riot police, as well as intelligence agents deployed at the neighborhood's entrance, ahead of the march.

Israel's attorney general rejected Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's request to delay the event.

Early Sunday, locals said five Silwan residents were detained after homes were searched, one of whom was identified as Mousa Baydoun.

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