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Israeli forces shoot, injure 3 Palestinians, set fire to land in weekly Friday demos

June 3, 2016 8:59 P.M. (Updated: June 5, 2016 5:46 P.M.)
BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- At least three Palestinians were injured, dozens suffered from tear gas inhalation, and swaths of agricultural land caught fire on Friday when clashes broke out with Israeli forces during weekly protests in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip, ahead of 49th anniversary of Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian territory.

A Palestinian youth was shot and injured with live fire by Israeli forces deployed near the Israeli separation barrier in the blockaded Gaza Strip close to the al-Mintar (Karni) crossing east of Gaza city, witnesses told Ma’an.

Dozens of Palestinian youth gathered in the area in protest of Israeli actions in the besieged coastal enclave.

An Israeli army spokesperson told Ma’an that dozens of protesters were “rolling burning tires” near the Israeli-enforced “buffer zone” of the Karni crossing. She said that Israeli forces fired warning shots in the air before firing directly into the crowd.

In the northern occupied West Bank village of Kafr Qaddum, two Palestinian brothers were injured and dozens suffered from tear gas inhalation as Israeli forces dispersed the weekly protests there, locals said.

Popular resistance coordinator in the village Murad Shtewei said Israeli forces raided the village firing live bullets, tear gas, and stun grenades, injuring Wasif Hikmat,19, and his brother Umran, 20, with live fire -- both in the thigh. They were taken to Rafidia hospital in Nablus for treatment.

Shtewei said violent clashes broke out after Israeli forces raided the village accompanied by military vehicles and used skunk water on locals.

Participants in the protests raised Palestinian flags and chanted for unity among Palestinian political factions and for the end to the decades-long Israeli occupation.

In the central occupied West Bank village of Bilin, dozens suffered from tear gas inhalation and dozens of dunams of agricultural land caught fire during clashes between Palestinian activists and Israeli forces.

A large number of Israeli forces blocked the protest at the western entrance of the village, and fired tear gas and rubber-coated steel bullets at protesters, with no injuries reported.

Locals told Ma’an that several dunams of land planted with seeds and olive trees in the Khilat al-Ful area of western Bilin caught fire because of the high volume of tear gas fired by Israeli forces.

Participants raised Palestinian flags and roamed the streets of the village singing songs for unity and resistance and calling for the release of all Palestinian prisoners.

Spokesperson for the Bilin Popular Committee Against the Wall Abdullah Abu Rahma called for an escalation of protests measures against the illegal Israeli occupation and its “extremist government that targets Palestinian citizens, continues to seize lands, demolish homes, forcibly displace people, and abuse prisoners in its jails.”

During last week’s protests in Bilin, locals reported it had been the first time in the 11-year history of weekly popular resistance demonstrations in village that Israeli forces refrained from using tear gas and other crowd control weapons to disperse protesters.

Friday’s demonstrations commemorated the anniversary the 1967 Israeli invasion and occupation of the West Bank, Gaza, Sinai, and the Golan Heights that began on June 5, a day that Palestinians refer to as the Naksa, meaning setback.

The war resulted in the flight of around 300,000 Palestinians from their homes, as well as thousands of Syrians from the Golan Heights.

Palestinians believe the 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.

Residents of Kafr Qaddum and Bilin are among many in Palestinian communities in the occupied West Bank who carry out weekly Friday demonstrations in opposition to the Israeli military occupation.

Meanwhile, Palestinians in the Gaza Strip crowd near the borders with Israel every Friday to show solidarity with what Palestinians in the besieged coastal enclave have termed the “Jerusalem Intifada” taking place in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem.

Israeli forces have come under repeated criticism for excessive use force as well as lethal methods of crowd control that often result in death or injury of protesters.

According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, more than 2,000 Palestinians have been injured by Israeli forces in the occupied Palestinian territory since the beginning of the year. In May alone, 54 Palestinians in the occupied territory suffered injuries by Israeli forces.
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