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Palestinian shot at anti-settlement rallies in Gaza

Sept. 26, 2010 7:37 P.M. (Updated: Sept. 27, 2010 10:32 A.M.)
GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- Israeli soldiers shot a Palestinian at one of several peaceful anti-settlement protests held in Gaza on Sunday, rally organizers said.

Gaza's National Action Committee organized rallies in Al-Faraheen, east of Khan Younis in the southern Strip and in Al-Maghazi in central Gaza. A third rally headed to the separation wall north of the coastal enclave.

The Israeli army opened fire on the rally in Al-Faraheen, and one protester was seriously injured when soldiers shot him as he tried to place a Palestinian flag on the separation fence, organizers said.

An Israeli military spokeswoman said forces opened fire on protesters in the area as they approached the fence, which the Israeli military considers a combat zone. Demonstrators failed to respond to warning shots, she said, after which soldiers fired at the protesters' feet, injuring one.

Committee secretary A'tah Abu Zarqa said the rallies were organized to show the international community that Palestinians opposed Israel's settlement policy which confiscated lands, and attempted to change the geography and demography of Palestine.

Abu Zarqa said settlement activity would directly affect negotiations, and that peace in the Middle East could not be reached while Israel continued building on occupied land.

A 10-month slowdown in settlement expansion expired on Sunday, and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has so far ignored requests from Palestinian negotiators, the UN, US and EU to extend restrictions.

President Mahmoud Abbas said he would walk out of peace negotiations, recently resumed after a 20-month hiatus, if Israeli did not extend the freeze on construction.

As the freeze expired, Israeli settlers installed mobile homes on Palestinian land near Bethlehem, and laid foundations for a new school at an illegal outpost near Hebron. On Saturday, settlers installed 20 caravans on a hilltop outside the Revava settlement in the northern West Bank.

In light of the resumed construction, Abu Zarqa called on President Mahmoud Abbas to withdraw from talks, and asked the international community to pressure Israel to approve Palestinians' right to establish a state.

Palestine Peoples' Party representative Nafeth Ghuneim called for greater conciliation efforts to restore national, and said that if land confiscation continued, through settlement expansion and the imposition of a buffer zone along Gaza's border, there would no Palestinian land left to negotiate for.

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