BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) -- Israeli forces suppressed weekly marches in the occupied West Bank districts of Ramallah and Qalqiliya on Friday, as two Palestinians, including a child, were injured with rubber-coated steel bullets, while tens of Palestinians suffered from tear gas inhalation.
In the village of Kafr Qaddum in Qalqiliya, two Palestinians, including a child, were injured with rubber-coated steel bullets as Israeli forces suppressed the village’s weekly march against illegal Israeli settlements and the opening of the village’s main entrance which has been closed by Israeli forces for 14 years.
Coordinator of the popular resistance in the village Murad Shteiwi said that Israeli forces fired tear gas and rubber-coated steel bullets, injuring Muhammad Hilme, 11, in the neck with a rubber bullet and Abdullah Salim, 26, in the leg with a rubber bullet. Salim works as a photographer for the Israeli rights group B’Tselem.
Shteiwi said that nine Palestinians had also suffered from tear gas inhalation.
Shteiwi added that clashes erupted when Israeli forces raided the village and “heavily fired” rubber bullets and tear gas at protesters.
He also noted that the march was launched with wide participation of Palestinians demanding an end to the nearly half-century Israeli occupation, while voicing support for the Palestinian Authority (PA) which the he said was the “only legitimate representative of the Palestinian people.”
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."
Meanwhile, in the village of Bilin in Ramallah, Israeli forces also suppressed the village’s weekly march against Israeli settlements and occupation.
The march included the participation of both Palestinians and international peace activists.
The protesters held Palestinian flags and weaved through the village’s streets calling for national unity, the immediate release of Palestinian prisoners, and an end to the Israeli occupation.
Protesters headed toward Israel’s separation wall in the village, where some Palestinian youths climbed to the top of the wall and raised the Palestinian flag, while Israeli forces shot tear gas at the protesters.
Coordinator of the popular resistance in Bilin Ratab Abu Rahma said that a Norwegian delegation visited Bilin and also participated in the Friday march to support the Palestinian people and their struggle.
Abu Rahma added that the delegation was given a detailed explanation of the situation in Bilin and the village’s longstanding resistance against the Israeli occupation.
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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Israeli forces stationed behind the separation wall fired tear gas at protesters, causing a number of Palestinian and international peace activists to suffer from tear gas inhalation.
Protesters held Palestinian flags and demanded the destruction of the separation wall, ending the Israeli occupation, and halting Israeli settlement expansion.
Member of the popular resistance Muhammad Ameira said that six international supporters and tend of Palestinians participated in the march, which has been considered a “weekly tradition for years.”
An Israeli army spokesperson told Ma'an she would look into reports on each of the protests.