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British minister in Nabi Saleh: Right to protest

July 1, 2011 1:39 P.M. (Updated: July 1, 2011 4:32 P.M.)
BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- On a visit to the West Bank village of Nabi Saleh Thursday, British Minister for the Middle East Alistair Burt confirmed the country's support for Palestinians' right to non-violent protest, a statement from the British consulate said.

"While we fully understand Israel’s security concerns, we urge the Israeli Security Forces to exercise restraint when policing peaceful demonstrations to prevent against injury and loss of life," the statement quoted Burt saying.

Burt expressed Britain's support for the EU decision declaring jailed popular protest leaders from the village Basem and Naji Tamimi to be human rights defenders.

His visit, Burt said, "reinforced our concerns about the conduct of the Israeli military courts where 96% of all cases result in plea bargains, and particularly the treatment of children."

Israeli forces have detained dozens of children from Nabi Saleh, which hosts weekly peaceful protests against illegal Jewish-only settlements built on village land.

The minister met with villagers, and visited a village spring that has become a flashpoint after Israeli settlers from neighboring Hallamish started to use the resource, blocking Palestinian access to their private lands.

Israeli settlements are "illegal and an obstacle to peace," Burt said.

"We continue to call on Israel to cease all settlement activity and focus on building conditions that allow meaningful negotiations to resume."
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