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Israeli forces disperse protest in Qalqiliya against construction of new settler road

Jan. 7, 2017 3:50 P.M. (Updated: Jan. 9, 2017 8:25 P.M.)
QALQILIYA (Ma'an) -- Israeli forces Saturday forcibly suppressed a demonstration in the Qalqiliya district of the northern occupied West Bank, detaining at least one Palestinian.

Palestinians from the villages of Izbat al-Tabib and al-Nabi Elyas protested against an Israeli court decision to construct a new settler road on the village’s private land.

Palestinian demonstrators waved the Palestinian national flag and performed midday prayers on the land slated for Israeli confiscation. Israeli peace activists were also supposed to join the demonstration, but were denied entry at the Israeli checkpoints, according to the organizers.

Witnesses told Ma’an that Israeli forces were deployed heavily on Route 55, a settler bypass road already constructed nearby the villages of Azzun, Izbat al-Tabib, and al-Nabi Elyas, and prevented Palestinian demonstrators from crowding near the highway.

Witnesses added that Israeli soldiers had detained a young Palestinian man. However, his identity remained unknown as of Saturday afternoon.

It was unclear what means Israeli forces used to disperse the demonstration. However, Palestinians are routinely targeted with tear gas, rubber-coated steel bullets, sound grenades, and other “nonlethal” crowd control methods at similar demonstrations.

An Israeli army spokesperson told Ma’an she would look into reports.
Walid Assaf, head of the Palestinian Authority (PA)’s committee for resisting Israel’s wall and settlements, said that the demonstration was organized to oppose the construction of a three-kilometer road, which would serve only Israeli settlers residing illegally in the occupied Palestinian territory and would be built on private Palestinian land.

He accused the Israeli court of approving the decision after “falling under pressure of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu,” mentioning that Netanyahu had personally intervened in the court’s decision.

Meanwhile, Bayan al-Tabib, a member of the Fatah Revolutionary Council, said during the protest that demonstrations would continue against Israel’s decision to build the road, which would reportedly confiscate some 104 dunams (26 acres) of private Palestinian land in the area.

Much of the village's land has been slowly taken over since Israel occupied the West Bank in 1967 and the majority of homes in the village -- located in Area C under full Israeli military control -- are slated for demolition, as residents were forced to build without the nearly impossible to obtain Israeli-issued construction permits.

The illegal Israeli settlement of Alfe Menashe meanwhile has continued to expand to the village's south.

Construction of bypass roads is ongoing throughout the occupied West Bank, where roads are limited for the use of settlers and Israeli military only, cutting across private Palestinian land in order to connect a vast network of Jewish-only settlements.

The three villages identified by Tabib as facing land confiscation for the new bypass road are already cut off from neighboring Palestinian villages by the Israeli separation wall, which completely encircles the nearby Palestinian city of Qalqiliya.

Meanwhile, Palestinian locals have limited access to Route 55 -- where Izbat al-Tabib residents have demonstrated several times before -- despite its construction across Palestinian land.

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