BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) -- Israeli forces injured three Palestinians, who locals said were children, with rubber-coated steel bullets and shot another Palestinian with live fire during weekly Friday marches in the occupied West Bank villages of Kafr Qaddum, Nilin, and Bilin.
In the village of Kafr Qaddum in the northern district of Qalqiliya, Israeli forces injured three Palestinian “children” with rubber-coated steel bullets, according to the village’s popular resistance coordinator Murad Shteiwi.
Shteiwi said that a large number of Israeli soldiers, escorted by Israeli military vehicles, raided the village and fired large amounts of tear gas and rubber-coated steel bullets into the crowd of protesters, causing the injury of three Palestinian “children.” However, their specific ages were not provided.
The injured were all provided with medical care on the scene by the Palestinian Red Crescent, Shteiwi said.
He added that more events would be organized to support the fight for the “dignity and freedom” for Palestinian prisoners, who are launching a mass hunger strike in Israeli prisons on April 17.
In response to a request for comment on the clashes in Kafr Qaddum, an Israeli army spokesperson told Ma'an that "hundreds of Palestinians hurled rocks" at Israeli forces in the village, and that, "in response," Israeli forces used "riot dispersal means in order to prevent an escalation of violence." She confirmed that Israeli forces had hit several Palestinians with rubber-coated bullets, whom she referred to as the "main instigators."
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 one protester was killed, while 84 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).
During a weekly march in the village of Nilin in the central West Bank district of Ramallah, Israeli forces shot Muhammad Abd al-Qadir Omera with live ammunition, causing him to sustain injuries, before detaining him and transferring him to an unknown location.
Omera was reported as a “youth.” However, his exact age remained unknown.
The severity of Omera’s injuries remained unknown as of Friday.
Meanwhile, Palestinians and international solidarity activists participated in the Bilin village’s weekly march near Ramallah.
The march was launched to commemorate slain Palestinian Bassem Abu Rahma, who was killed in April 2009 after Israeli forces shot a high velocity-tear gas canister at him during a similar march. According to Al Jazeera, the canister was shot directly at Abu Rahma’s chest from 40 meters away. He died before he reached the hospital.
Abu Rahma’s killing occurred a year after his brother Ashraf became the center of a high-profile case which reached the Israeli Supreme Court after Israeli forces detained Ashraf from the nearby village of Nilin. During his detention, soldiers tied him up, blindfolded him, and subsequently shot him point-blank in the foot with a rubber-coated steel bullet.
Bilin’s march set off from the center of the village following Friday prayers and headed towards Israel’s separation wall, where protesters held picture of Abu Rahma and shouted national slogans calling for supporting Palestinians held in Israeli prisons.
Protesters set rubber tires on fire, while Israeli drones were spotted in the sky taking pictures of the protesters.
There were no reports of direct clashes with Israeli forces, as is typical in Bilin during their marches.
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.
An Israeli army spokesperson told Ma’an she would look into reports on protests in Nilin and Bilin.