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Clashes as hundreds protest settlements in Hebron

Feb. 25, 2011 6:31 P.M. (Updated: Feb. 27, 2011 10:29 A.M.)
HEBRON (Ma’an) -- Israeli forces fired rubber-coated bullets at protesters in the West Bank city of Hebron on Friday afternoon, where clashes left at least nine people injured, Palestinian medics and the Israeli army said.

Four international activists and two Palestinians were detained, organizers said. The military said that only one person was arrested.

The Palestinians injured by rubber-coated bullets were transferred to the Hebron and Al-Ahli hospitals, Red Crescent officials said. The Israeli army also said five border police officers were injured.

The demonstration, which called for the reopening of one of the city's main streets, came on the anniversary of the 1994 massacre of 29 Palestinians in Hebron by a Jewish extremist.

Protesters, who waved Palestinian flags chanting "Down with the occupation!" and "Hebron is Palestinian," said they were trying to reopen central Shuhada (Martyrs) Street, once home to the city's main market.

Israel largely closed off the street, citing security, after the 1994 massacre in the Ibrahimi Mosque.

Hundreds of Palestinians and international activists participated in the protest.

Among those who inhaled tear gas were Hebron governor Kamel Hamid and practically every journalist who covered the event. Palestine TV reporter Sari Al-Ewaiwi was injured in his left hand by stun grenade.

The protesters also backed Egypt, Tunis, and Libya, and condemned US policy toward settlements.

Israeli forces tried to suppress the protest by forming a human wall. Some of the protesters entered the street and refused to leave, but soldiers kicked them, a spokesman for the group Youth Against Settlement said. Palestinian lawmaker Mustafa Barghouthi was barred from the area.

Some of the estimated 1,000 protesters, who included Israelis and foreign activists, threw stones at troops, who responded with tear gas, stun grenades and rubber bullets.

"There was a violent and illegal riot in Hebron," the Israeli military said, putting the size of the crowd at around 300. An AFP photographer and correspondent said 1,000 people attended the rally.

The Israeli military said the crowd "confronted security forces in an effort to enter the Jewish community and the forces used riot dispersal means and the riot was dispersed."

Hebron, the largest Palestinian city in the West Bank, is also home to around 600 right-wing religious Jewish settlers, most of whom live in the area around Shuhada Street.

In 2003, Israel's Supreme Court backed an appeal by Palestinian traders, ordering that the settlers be evicted and the market reopened, but the orders were never implemented.

Under a 1997 accord with the Palestinian Authority, Israeli troops evacuated 80 percent of the city but continue to protect the settlers living around the site, which they also consider holy.
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