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Israeli forces violently disperse al-Tur rally against road closure

April 29, 2015 5:02 P.M. (Updated: April 30, 2015 11:05 A.M.)
A protester holds a sign reading "No to collective punishment." (MaanImages)
JERUSALEM (Ma'an) -- Israeli polices forces violently dispersed a Palestinian protest in the occupied East Jerusalem village of al-Tur on Wednesday, amid complaints that authorities' closure of the village's main road is a form of "collective punishment" against locals.

Sources told Ma'an that dozens of residents of the neighborhood on the Mount of Olives as well as foreign activists carried out a sit-in on al-Tur's main street to protest Israeli authorities' decision to shut down major thoroughfare Suleiman al-Farsi street with two concrete blocks.

The street was closed earlier this week when locals protested against the death of a 17-year-old boy from the area who was shot dead after a scuffle with a soldier at a nearby checkpoint.

Mufid Abu Ghannam, director of a local activist committee, told Ma'an that Israeli forces assaulted protesters on Wednesday and launched stun grenades at sit-in participants, injuring two people with shrapnel in their lower extremities.

Israeli forces also reportedly detained two Palestinian protesters, Amjad al-Shami and Youssef Khuweis.

Abu Ghannam said that even after protesters had dispersed, Israeli forces continued firing stun grenades at people in the area.

Israeli police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld confirmed the incident, saying that police used stun grenades against protesters after they blocked roads in what he called an "illegal demonstration" in which "stones were thrown at police officers who were at the scene."

Rosenfeld denied any injuries in the incident.

The sit-in on the main street of al-Tur was held concurrently with rallies at five schools in the village, where students carried out sit-ins in school yards in protest against the closure of the village's entrance.

Suleiman al-Farsi Street is considered the main entrance to the village, and local activists told Ma'an that the closure of the road negatively affected the ability of 3,000 local residents to live normally. The closure also prevents ambulances and fire trucks from reaching the village.

The thoroughfare is also the main road leading to the Suleiman al-Farsi mosque, the village cemetery, and two elementary schools where some 1,200 students attend.

The closure of the roads followed widespread protests against the killing of Muhammad Abu Ghannam on Saturday as he crossed the al-Zayyim checkpoint on foot resulted in widespread protests.

A soldier at the checkpoint reportedly insulted Abu Ghannam's sister, leading to a scuffle, while Israeli authorities have alleged the boy pulled a knife on the soldier.

Israeli municipal authorities routinely close and block major roads leading into Palestinian neighborhoods of occupied East Jerusalem.

In addition to Al-Tur, another major road into the nearby town of al-Issawiya was also shut closed.

Abu Ghannam was one of three Palestinians shot dead by Israeli forces in the last week.

Although Palestinians in occupied East Jerusalem live within territory Israel has unilaterally annexed, they lack citizenship rights and are instead classified only as "residents" whose permits can be revoked if they move away from the city for more than a few years.

Jerusalem Palestinians face discrimination in all aspects of life including housing, employment, and services, and are unable to access services in the West Bank due to the construction of Israel's separation wall.

Tensions have been running high in East Jerusalem since last summer when Jewish extremists raided the area and kidnapped and murdered a 16-year-old Palestinian boy, Muhammad Abu Khdeir.

Israeli forces have detained hundreds of Palestinians across East Jerusalem who have taken part in protests, especially against Israel's summer assault on Gaza, including 600 alone in the two months after Abu Khdeir's death.

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