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Soldiers fire tear gas at protests across West Bank

Aug. 5, 2011 8:21 P.M. (Updated: Aug. 7, 2011 10:29 A.M.)
BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- Israeli forces targeted three separate rallies across the West Bank on Friday, firing tear gas at participants and lightly injuring dozens.

Soldiers fired tear gas at weekly Friday demonstrations in the Palestinian village of Bilin, west of Ramallah, the Popular Struggle Coordination Committee said.

Despite the heat and fasting of Ramadan, dozens of Palestinian, international and Israeli activists took part in the protests, which began after Friday prayers in an area of land recently returned to the village by Israeli authorities.

Israeli forces stationed behind part of the separation wall fired tear gas at the crowds as participants shouted slogans toward the nearby settlement of Mattiyahu calling on settlers to return the land to residents of Bilin.

Dozens of the activists inhaled the tear gas causing mild injuries.

A peaceful rally held after Friday prayers in the village of Nabi Saleh, near Ramallah was also targeted by Israeli soldiers who fired tear gas, stun grenades and rubber coated steel bullets at protesters, a Ma'an correspondent reported.

The army blocked streets in the village, declaring it a closed military zone while settlers under the protection of the soldiers accessed a nearby spring.

Soldiers also occupied the home of Shaker Mahmoud Al-Tamimi, turning it into a military post and forcing the children and women into a small room while preventing journalists from reaching the house, a Ma'an correspondent noted.

In a separate non-violent rally on Friday, residents of Kafr Qaddum, east of Qalqiliya marched to demand that the main road to the village be opened after nine years of being blocked by Israeli authorities.

The village is overlooked by the illegal Israeli settlement of Qedumim.

“The Friday rally is the sixth consecutive one and dozens of cars and hundreds of residents participated in addition to international peace activists. The march started from the center of the village and finished by the blocked entrance,” media coordinator Murad Ishtewi told Ma'an.

Israeli soldiers were present in large numbers and fired gas canisters at the residents.

The villages of Bilin and Nabi Saleh both hold weekly Friday rallies to protest against Israel's confiscation of village lands.

Six years after the struggle began in Bilin and four years after the Israeli High Court had ordered the re-routing of the separation wall, residents were finally granted access in June 2011 to 600 dunams of land previously annexed by Israel.

The non-violent resistance movement is a key part of the Palestinian struggle against Israeli occupation.

Peaceful Palestinian rallies in the West Bank are often met with a violent response by Israeli forces.
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