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Israeli soldiers disperse Naksa protests across West Bank

June 5, 2014 5:45 P.M. (Updated: June 6, 2014 8:00 P.M.)
BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- Israeli forces injured at least four protesters as they dispersed hundreds of Palestinians taking part in rallies across the West Bank on Thursday to mark the 1967 war that led to the occupation of the region by Israel.

Protests marking Naksa Day, meaning "setback" in Arabic, took place at the Qalandiya checkpoint near Ramallah as well as in the southern West Bank city of Hebron.

Four Palestinians were injured after being shot by rubber-coated steel bullets after clashes broke out at the Qalandiya checkpoint on Thursday.

Israeli forces dispersed the rally by firing sound grenades and tear gas bombs as well, causing dozens to suffer from excessive tear gas inhalation.

Secretary general of the Palestinian National Initiative Mustafa Barghouthi also took part in the march and he was hit directly by a sound grenade in the right left, according a statement released by his office.

Participants said that Israeli forces assaulted journalists covering the rally while soldiers took pictures of journalists as they protested the attacks.

An Israeli military spokeswoman said that 100 Palestinians had gathered in the area "violently hurling rocks," and that "soldiers used riot dispersal means and rubber bullets to distance the rioters."

Dozens also took part in a march in Hebron on Thursday to mark Naksa Day and in solidarity with hundreds of Palestinians prisoners in Israeli jails currently on hunger strike.

Palestinian and foreign activists participated in a rally that was called for by the Committee for the Defense of Hebron and a number of other political parties.

The rally set off from Algeria school in the Old City and headed towards the Jewish settlements near the Osama bin Munqez School, which has been taken over by settlers who refer to it as "Beit Romano," holding Palestinian flags and signs in Arabic, English and Hebrew calling for an end to the occupation and in support of the hunger strikers.

During the rally, Israeli forces detained political activist Fahmi Shaheen, a member of Palestinian People's Party politburo, and took him to the police station in the nearby settlement of Kiryat Arba where he was accused of assaulting an Israeli officer, the party said.

Member of PPP politburo Afaf Ghatasha said "Israeli forces blocked the rally less than 50 meters after it began, pushed the people back and detained the activist Fahmi Shaheen right before they showered it with sound grenades and tear gas bombs."

Naksa Day is the annual commemoration of the Israeli invasion and occupation of the West Bank, Gaza, Sinai, and the Golan Heights in 1967 as well as the ensuing flight of around 300,000 Palestinians from their homes, as well as thousands of Syrians.

Palestinians believe that the 1967 war completed the Israeli occupation of historic Palestine that began with the Nakba, or "catastrophe" of 1948, when 750,000 Palestinians were expelled from their homes in what became Israel.

For Palestinians in the West Bank, Naksa Day represents the beginning of the Israeli military occupation and the settlement enterprise, which has involved the dispossession of tens of thousands of Palestinians from their lands in order to construct settlement homes exclusively for Jews.

Member of the Committee for the Defense of Hebron Khalil Daana said that "this activity marks the 47th anniversary of the occupation and highlights the fact that the fight will continue until the last soldier and the last settler are out of Palestinian lands."

Daana added that "the activity comes on the 43th day of the administrative prisoners' hunger strike and is in support of the prisoners' fight until they are all freed," referring to more than 100 prisoners in Israeli jails who are on strike against their detention without charge or trial by Israeli authorities.

Bassam Shweiki, another participant in the protest, said that "we will not leave our prisoners alone to face the occupation and the prison services, especially at this point where some of them are at risk of dying."

An Israeli military spokeswoman said that 20 Palestinians has gathered in Hebron and were "not very violent," and had no information on the detention.
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