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Israeli forces detain 2 Palestinians, injure Israeli activist in Kafr Qaddum clashes

Dec. 30, 2016 10:29 P.M. (Updated: Dec. 31, 2016 5:01 P.M.)
QALQILIYA (Ma’an) -- Israeli forces Friday suppressed a weekly march in the village of Kafr Qaddum in the occupied West Bank district of Qalqiliya organized to protest Israeli settlement activity in the area, detaining two Palestinians and injuring an Israeli peace activist.

Murad Shteiwi, the coordinator of the village’s popular resistance committee, told Ma’an that Israeli forces “attacked” protesters by firing live bullets, rubber-coated steel bullets, sound bombs, and tear gas canisters into the crowd of demonstrators, injuring an Israeli peace activist, identified only as Amnon, with a rubber-coated steel bullet in his hand.

Shteiwi added that Israeli forces also detained Palestinians Jameel al-Barghouti and Ghaleb Shteiwi during the protest and transferred them to an unknown location.

Shteiwi said that the march was launched after Fatah called upon members of the revolutionary council, Fatah’s secretary in Nablus Jihad Ramadan, members of popular committees, and all Palestinians to resist the Israeli separation wall and settlement activities to mark the 52nd anniversary of what is officially recognized as the start of the Palestinian revolution on Jan. 1, 1965.

Jan. 1, 1965 has been officially recognized as the start of the longstanding Palestinian revolution against Israeli colonization of Palestinian lands, refugee rights, and the ensuing Israeli occupation, now entering its 50th year. The year was marked by the founding of the Fatah national party and the first Palestinian attack on Israeli military targets.

Similar protests to mark the anniversary were also held in Bilin in the West Bank district of Ramallah, another village well-known for its longstanding popular resistance against the Israeli occupation and settlement expansion.

Shteiwi added that clashes erupted between Palestinian protesters and Israeli soldiers after Israeli forces raided a number of homes in the village, and stationed soldiers on the rooftops of houses where they fired tear gas canisters at protesters.

An Israeli army spokesperson told Ma’an she would look into reports.

Last Friday, Israeli forces, wearing matching plain clothes and black ski masks detained a seven-year-old Palestinian, Muamen Murad Mahmoud Shteiwi during a weekly protest in the village. A video of the incident was taken by a volunteer of the Israeli human rights group B’Tselem and quickly went viral. Rights groups and activists have pointed out that the video seems to show the child being used by the soldiers as a human shield during clashes.

Shteiwi told Ma’an last Friday that demonstrators were “surprised” to find 12 Israeli soldiers “hiding” in the area who “attacked” Muamen and took him into an Israeli military vehicle.

According to a statement released by B’Tselem on Wednesday, Muamen told the B’Tselem volunteer that “one of the kids threw a stone towards a dirt mound that had a tin sheet on it. As soon as the stone hit the tin, men with masks came out from under it.”

“Because of their masks and black gloves, at first I thought they were protesters. The rest of the kids who were around me ran away,” he said.

"I realized they were Israeli soldiers, but because I was so surprised and scared, I couldn’t run. One of the masked soldiers knocked me over and grabbed me, and then more masked soldiers gathered around me. I was afraid. I cried and screamed because of how they looked. The soldiers detained me for about ten minutes. They shot at the protesters with me next to them."

B’Tselem strongly condemned the incident, saying that “it does not take a lawyer to know that the detention of a seven-year-old child by soldiers, keeping him by their side as they shoot at his friends, is deplorable and utterly unacceptable.”

Residents of Kafr Qaddum began staging weekly protests in 2011 against land confiscations, as well as the closure of the village's southern road by Israeli forces. The road, which has been closed 14 years, is the main route to the nearby city of Nablus, the nearest economic center.

The Israeli army blocked off the road after expanding the illegal Israeli settlement of Kedumim in 2003, forcing village residents to take a bypass road in order to travel to Nablus, which has extended the travel time to Nablus from 15 minutes to 40 minutes, according to B’Tselem.

Following similar clashes that broke earlier in the year, Shteiwi told Ma'an that more than 330 protests have been held over that period, during which time 84 protesters have been injured by live fire, including 12 children.

Some 120 others have been detained at protests and were subsequently held in Israeli custody for periods ranging between four and 24 months, Shteiwi said, adding that they have paid fines totaling some 25,000 shekels (approximately $6,488).

Over the course of five years, an elderly protester was killed after suffering from excessive tear gas inhalation, one youth lost his eyesight, and another his ability to speak, he added.

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