RAMALLAH (Ma’an) -- Israeli forces suppressed weekly Friday marches in the village of Bilin in the central occupied West Bank district of Ramallah and the village of Kafr Qaddum in Qalqiliya, detaining two Palestinians, including a 14-year-old, and causing many to suffer tear gas inhalation.
In the village of Bilin, Israeli forces detained two Palestinians after installing checkpoints at three roads leading to the village, preventing foreign protesters to enter the village and participate in their weekly march.
Coordinator of the popular committee against the Israeli wall and settlements Abdullah Abu Rahma said that Israeli forces detained Majdi Abu Rahma, 32, and seized his vehicle, while also detaining Issa Khader Abu Rahma, 14.
Protesters reached the area of the separation wall’s gate, and shouted national slogans demanding the freeing of Palestinian prisoners, particularly Jamal Abu al-Leil, who has been on hunger strike for 22 days, and Muhammad al-Qiq, who ended his 32-day hunger strike on Friday.
Israeli forces shot tear gas canisters at the protesters, causing many to suffer from tear gas inhalation, as clashes broke out between soldiers and Palestinian youth. Protesters gathered at the village’s entrances and succeeded in forcing Israeli soldiers to leave and re-open the entrances to the village following clashes.
Bilin is one of the most active Palestinian villages in peaceful organized opposition against Israeli policies, as residents have protested every Friday for 12 years, and have often been met with tear gas, rubber-coated steel bullets, and stun grenades from Israeli forces.
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Meanwhile, in the village of Kafr Qaddum in Qalqiliya, a number of protesters suffered tear gas inhalation as Israeli forces suppressed the village’s weekly march.
Local coordinator of the popular resistance in the village Murad Shteiwi told Ma’an that Israeli forces raided the village and fired tear gas canisters at protesters. The injured were provided with medical care at the scene by Palestinian Red Crescent crews.
Shteiwi said that violent clashes erupted between Palestinian youths and Israeli soldiers who were stationed on rooftops. They fired rubber-coated bullets and sound bombs at protesters. Shteiwi added that Israeli forces were not successful in detaining any Palestinians.
An Israeli army spokesperson told Ma’an she would look into reports on both villages.
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 for 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 Israeli rights group B’Tselem.
Hundreds of Palestinians have been detained during the demonstrations since their start in 2011, and at least 84 protesters have been injured by live fire, including 12 children, Shteiwi told Ma'an during a similar protest last year.
Some 120 others have been detained at demonstrations and were subsequently held in Israeli custody for periods ranging between four and 24 months, Shteiwi said at the time, adding that they had 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.
In December, Israeli forces became the focus of international condemnation when Israeli soldiers wearing matching plain clothes and black ski masks detained a seven-year-old Palestinian during a weekly protest in the village.
A video of the incident was taken by a volunteer of B’Tselem and quickly went viral. Rights groups and activists pointed out that the video seemed to show the soldiers using the child as a human shield during clashes.
B’Tselem strongly condemned the incident at the time, 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."