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Israeli forces open fire on West Bank protests, injuring dozens

Nov. 8, 2013 9:54 P.M. (Updated: Nov. 9, 2013 12:54 P.M.)
RAMALLAH (Ma'an) -- Israel forces injured dozens of Palestinians and international activists after opening fire on demonstrations in four cities across the West Bank on Friday afternoon.

Israeli forces dispersed protests in Nabi Saleh, al-Masara, Bilin, and Kafr Qaddum protesting the killing of two Palestinians by Israeli forces on Thursday and marking the 9th anniversary of the death of former President Yasser Arafat.

Israeli forces fired tear gas, rubber-coated steel bullets, and stun grenades at the various protests in order to disperse them, causing dozens of injuries.

In Nabi Saleh, Israeli forces dispersed demonstrators who marched throughout the village raising Palestinian flags and pictures of late President Yasser Arafat.

Demonstrators chanted songs calling for the opening of all roads, dismantling of checkpoints, and condemnation of the killing of two Palestinians on Thursday.

Clashes then broke out as Palestinians threw rocks at Israeli soldiers near the village, who in turn fired tear gas.

The Israeli army had declared the village a closed military zone in the early hours of the morning and restricted movement in an attempt to quash the weekly demonstration.

The people of Nabi Saleh have been protesting weekly for four years, demanding that their lands confiscated by Israeli forces to build the separation wall be returned.

In al-Masara, a village south of Bethlehem, a French activist was detained and dozens suffered from excessive tear gas inhalation as Israeli forces dispersed the weekly protest on Friday.

Protesters, including a German solidarity group, marched from the center of the village toward the Israeli separation wall and raised Palestinian and German flags.

Popular Struggle Committee Coordinator in Bethlehem Hassan Brejia said that Israel was trying to "drag Palestinians into violence."

Since 2006, the residents of al-Masara have protested on a weekly basis, demanding Israeli authorities return village lands confiscated in order to build the separation wall as it crosses through their town.

In Bilin, near Ramallah, dozens suffered from excessive tear gas inhalation as Israeli soldiers dispersed the weekly demonstration.

Israeli forces fired rubber-coated steel bullets, stun grenades, and tear gas at protesters as they marched near their confiscated lands near the wall.

Palestinian, Israeli, and international activists participated in the protest. They raised Palestinian flags, and a large poster of late President Yasser Arafat while chanting songs for unity and resistance against the Israeli occupation.

Since 2005, Bilin villagers have protested on a weekly basis against the Israeli separation wall that runs through their village on land confiscated from local farmers. Previous protests by Bilin activists have forced the Israeli authorities to re-route the wall, but large chunks of the village lands remain inaccessible to residents because of the route.

Clashes between Israeli forces and protesters also broke out on Friday in Kafr Qaddum.

Israeli forces raided the village during the clashes, firing tear gas andstun grenades, and causing dozens to suffer from excessive tear gas inhalation including seniors, children, and international activists.

Hundreds participated in the protest, chanting national songs and songs for late president Yasser Arafat.

Murad Eshtewi, spokesman of the local protest committee, said that Israel is diminishing Palestinian dreams of freedom and independence by continuing their settlement activity, which weakens the possibility of a two-state solution.

Protests are held every Friday in Kafr Qaddum against Israel's closure of a main road linking the village to its nearest city, Nablus.

In 2004, the International Court of Justice called on Israel to stop construction of the separation wall within the occupied West Bank.

When completed, 85 percent of the wall will run inside the West Bank.

Palestinian officials demanded a global probe into the "killing" of Yasser Arafat on Thursday, a day after it emerged that Swiss forensic tests showed he probably died from polonium poisoning.

The internationally recognized Palestinian territories of which the West Bank and East Jerusalem form a part have been occupied by the Israeli military since 1967.

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