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Israeli forces suppress Nakba day rallies in Bethlehem, Ramallah

May 15, 2017 3:28 P.M. (Updated: May 15, 2017 8:50 P.M.)
Nakba day march in Bethlehem
BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) -- Israeli forces cracked down on Palestinians commemorating the 69th anniversary of the Nakba, or “catastrophe,” on Monday, with several Palestinians sustaining gunshot injuries and suffering from severe tear gas inhalation during marches in Bethlehem and Ramallah.

At least three people were hospitalized for after Israeli forces violently suppressed a Nakba march in the southern occupied West Bank city of Bethlehem around midday Monday, with one march participant describing the use of force as one of “the worst (tear) gas experiences” they had witnessed in the city in five years.

Witnesses told Ma’an the Israeli forces were deliberately launching tear gas canisters directly at demonstrators on the main street in northern Bethlehem where the march culminated, and continued to shoot tear gas at those attempting the escape, causing numerous people to suffer from tear gas suffocation.

Local sources said Israeli soldier also sprayed skunk water on demonstrators.

Israeli soldiers also used stun grenades and opened fire on protesters with rubber-coated steel bullets. At least three people were shot and injured in their extremities and evacuated to the hospital for treatment.

Meanwhile, in the central occupied West Bank city of Ramallah, at least seven demonstrators were shot and injured after march held to commemorate the Nakba and in support of hunger-striking Palestinian prisoners near Israel’s Beit El military checkpoint erupted into clashes.

The march set off from a solidarity sit-in tent in Yasser Arafat Square in central Ramallah and headed towards the checkpoint where Israeli forces fired tear gas, rubber-coated steel bullets, and “tutu” (0.22 inch) bullets at crowds, as protesters responded by throwing rocks. Seven Palestinians sustained gunshot injuries, local sources told Ma'an.

In response to a request for comment, an Israeli army spokesperson told Ma’an that "violent riots involving hundreds of Palestinians rolling burning tires and hurling rocks at Israeli forces broke out in Ramallah and Bethlehem." She confirmed that rubber-coated steel bullets and 0.22 caliber bullets were used on demonstrators.

Israeli forces have come under repeated criticism for excessive use of force, as well as lethal methods of "crowd control" that often result in the injury or death of protesters, amid a backdrop of what critics have called a culture of impunity for Israeli soldiers.

Earlier in the day, thousands of Palestinians gathered at the Arafat Memorial in Ramallah to take part in the Nakba day march led by a military marching band and scouts hoisting Palestinian and black flags, Wafa reported.

Many were clad in black T-shirts with the number 1948 written on the back, marking the year of the Nakba when the state of Israel was created, leaving some 750,000 Palestinians and millions of their descendants as refugees.

Demonstrators also carried a large Palestinian flag and a black flag with the words “We shall return” written on it in Arabic.

After reaching the city center at noon time, Palestinians stood for 69 seconds -- symbolizing the 69th anniversary of the Nakba, when sirens were sounded before speakers narrated the history of the Nakba and the promise of the Palestinian right of return.
Israeli forces suppress march in Bethlehem

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