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Former Yale professor among 4 detained in Walaja

May 6, 2010 9:53 A.M. (Updated: May 10, 2010 3:01 P.M.)
Bethlehem – Ma'an – A former Yale professor was among the four detained by Israeli forces during protests against the construction of the separation wall in Al-Walaja on Thursday morning.

Witnesses said three others were lightly injured by border police, who used clubs and mace against protesters, in what witnesses said was a violent removal of the protesters from their positions around Israeli military bulldozers.

A border police spokesman confirmed that four were detained at the rally, adding that all were released a few hours after their detention.

At 2pm, sources confirmed to Ma'an that at least one of the three, former Yale professor Dr Mazen Qumsiyeh, remained in custody. Family members confirmed that he was being held at the Russian Compound in Jerusalem, and may be let out on bail later in the afternoon.

The group of protesters marched to the site of construction and sat amidst the bulldozers, refusing to leave when officers demanded they disperse.

The spokesman said that 20 "left-wing" Israelis were among the protesters, but did not confirm whether any were among those detained.

Those injured were identified by witnesses as Mahmud Al-Araj, 27, and brothers Ahmad and Mahmud Mustafa Al-Araj, 23 and 25. All three were taken to the Beit Jala Hospital for treatment, where medics described their injuries as mild.

The others detained were identified as brothers Diya and Hasan Hamdan.

Close, violent quarters

"Almost every day they attempt to halt construction," the Israeli border police spokesman said, commenting on the conditions of the Al-Walaha protests. "They come close to the border police," he said, "and they throw stones."

Photojournalists and reporters at the scene said they did not witnesses stone throwing, noting protesters gather in the village center, and march toward the construction site. The gathering stops around the bulldozers digging up land in preparation for the wall, witnesses explained, and sit around the machines refusing to let them pass.

"That's where the detentions took place today," one organizer said, adding "I've been to the protests several times and never witnessed stone throwing."

A reliable observer was quoted as saying "no stones were thrown whatsoever, not a single one," regarding Thursday's protest.

"If protesters act violently we have the right to use the spray," the border police spokesman said, "the contact is very close."

He said border police, a separate unit from the Israeli military operating at the anti-wall protests in Bil'in and Ni'lin, "have a few measures of crowd dispersal, one is the sticks, a second is the spray. There are four or five mechanisms at their disposal."

Explaining the different tactics, the spokesman said, "here there is no fence between the protesters and the soldiers," referencing the geographical set-up at the anti-wall rallies in Bil'in and Ni'lin, where Israeli military forces use an arsenal of riot dispersal mechanisms, including tear-gas and sound bombs, rubber coated bullets and occasionally skunk water.

When pressed, however, the spokesman declined to identify the remaining tactics available to officers, saying only, "they know exactly when to use these measures."
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