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7 arrested at Al-Walaja village demonstration

July 27, 2011 10:58 A.M. (Updated: Aug. 3, 2011 3:44 P.M.)
BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) -- Israeli forces detained 7 people taking part in a demonstration in Al-Walaja village on Wednesday morning.

Ala Ad-Deras, member of the Popular Committee Against the Wall, said that soldiers detained 7 activists, including 5 internationals.

Agricultural land belonging to the village, situated in northwestern Bethlehem, was also destroyed, he said.

Israeli forces initiated aggressive behavior against participants in the demonstration, leading to clashes between both sides, Ad-Deras said.

The two Palestinians detained were identified as Mazen Qumsiyeh, an activist in the popular committees, and Shireen Al-Araj, a member of the popular committee against the wall.

Israeli forces also reportedly bulldozed agricultural land belonging to the village on Tuesday, uprooting dozens of olive and pine trees.

Awad Abu Sway, a spokesman for the agriculture ministry, said bulldozers razed a road leading to a 5,000-year-old olive tree. The road's construction was funded by foreign aid, he said.

The official said Israel's actions in the village amounted to war crimes.

"These procedures are considered a [type of] racial discrimination and a theft of Palestinian properties for the sake of the settlers, ignoring that it’s an illegal occupation state," Abu Sway said.

"Therefore, it doesn’t have the right to own the natives’ properties."

Residents of the southern West Bank village are overwhelmingly refugees, driven from the historic Al-Walaja, located just across the valley from the current population center.

The village was, in 1948, the second largest land area after Jerusalem but was cut down to one third the size when Israel declared statehood that year.

Now a border village, Al-Walaja is edged on its eastern flank by an expanding bloc of settlements and is being reduced in size by the path of Israel's separation wall which annexes between two and three kilometers of village lands from the pre-1967 border.

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