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Weekly marches against Israeli settlements launched in Bilin, Nilin, and Kafr Qaddum

Feb. 17, 2017 8:35 P.M. (Updated: Feb. 19, 2017 6:45 P.M.)
BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) -- Weekly marches were held on Friday in the villages of Bilin and Nilin in the occupied West Bank district of Ramallah, while another was held in the village of Kafr Qaddum in the West Bank district of Qalqiliya, in protest of Israeli settlements and the separation wall.

In Bilin, the popular resistance committee against Israeli settlements and the separation wall organized a march to commemorate the 12th anniversary of the popular movement in the village. Palestinian officials also took part in the march, with Sheikh Nasser al-Qarm, a Palestinian judge, giving the Jumaa Khutbah -- the Islamic sermon before Friday prayers -- and commending the popular resistance in Bilin and its longstanding struggle against the Israeli occupation.

The march set off after Friday prayers with protesters holding up Palestinian flags and shouting national slogans condemning the Israeli occupation, Israeli confiscations of Palestinian land, and the “Muezzin bill” which aims to impose limits on the Muslim call to prayer in Israel and in occupied East Jerusalem.

Protesters were able to reach the separation wall, where several Palestinians climbed to the top of the wall and raised the Palestinian flag. They also broke the iron gate on the wall and began throwing stones at soldiers on the other side.

Israeli forces chased the protesters and temporarily detained a group of children.

One Palestinian broke a bone in his leg while Israeli soldiers were chasing him, and was transferred to Palestine Medical Complex for treatment.

Similar marches were also launched in Beit Jala in the district of Bethlehem and in Jabaliya in the besieged Gaza Strip in solidarity with Bilin’s popular resistance commemoration.

Bilin is one of the most active Palestinian villages in peaceful organized opposition against Israeli policies, as residents have protested every Friday for more than a decade, 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 Nilin near Bilin, tens of Palestinian protesters and three Israeli peace activists suffered from tear gas inhalation as Israeli forces suppressed a weekly march against Israeli settlements.

The march set off from the medical center south of the village and headed towards the separation wall, where protesters shouted slogans against the Israeli occupation, settlement activity in the Palestinian territory, and the separation wall.

Locals told Ma’an that Israeli forces fired tear gas at protesters, causing tens to suffer from tear gas inhalation.

In the village of Kafr Qaddum in Qalqiliya Israeli forces also suppressed the village’s weekly march against Israeli settlements and the more than a decade-long closure of the village’s main entrance by the Israeli army.

The march set off after Friday prayers with wide participation from the village’s residents, along with international and Israeli peace activists.

Coordinator of the popular resistance in the village Murad Shteiwi told Ma’an that Israeli forces raided the village, escorted by military vehicles, and chased local Palestinian youths. However, he noted that no injuries or detentions were reported.

Shteiwi said that violent clashes broke out between Palestinian youths and Israeli forces, with Palestinian youths throwing rocks and paint bottles at Israeli military vehicles and setting fire to rubber tires. Israeli forces, meanwhile, extinguished the fires and chased after the Palestinian youths in an attempt to detain them.

An Israeli army spokesperson told Ma’an she would look into army reports on each of the marches.

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 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.

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 seems 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."
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