AL-WALAJA: Children injured, several detained at wall protest August 5, 2010

Palestine Note -  4 August 2010

Israeli forces injured ten people, including a child, with tear gas canisters and rubber-coated bullets at a peaceful protest against the construction of the Israeli separation wall through the village of Al-Walaja near Bethlehem, Ma’an News Agency reported Wednesday.

“Witnesses described the demonstration as peaceful,” Ma’an said. “Protesters were said to have been sitting in the construction path when Israeli forces arrived and launched riot-dispersal means against them.”

The border police were called in to disperse the group, a spokesman for the Israeli police, because the protesters “disturbed workers” engaged in the construction of the separation barrier.

Border police detained 13 protesters for questioning. An Israeli spokesman said the protesters “disturbed border police officers” and that “there was nothing peaceful at all” about the demonstration. He also said the police did not use tear gas or rubber-coated bullets.

Activist and academic Dr. Mazin Qumsiyeh was at the Wednesday demonstration and took video. He described the scene in an email made available to Palestine Note:

[S]oldiers assaulted children and adults protesting peacefully, injured many, and arrested six Palestinians.  The destruction of the beautiful ancient village land was stopped for over 1.5 hours.  I was especially touched by the courage of Omar and his two children, one of them was hit by a soldier with his gun on top of his head.

Protesters reported that the detainees included Walaja Village Council head Saleh Hilmi Khalifeh, council member Ala Ad-Dares, and locals Ammar Abu At-Tin, Majdi Abu At-Tin, Muhammad Saleh Khalifeh, and Basel Al-Araj.

The construction of the Israeli separation barrier is cause for protest in many West Bank towns, as the barrier (in many places a 35-foot-tall concrete wall) frequently bisects large swaths of arable land.

In Walaja’s case, the government’s construction of the wall through the village is potentially illegal.

Last week the Israeli High Court ordered the state to justify ts plan to continue building its separation barrier through Walaja.

The path of the separation wall will surround Walaja on three sides, cutting off residents from large areas of land that belongs to the village. The court hearing last Sunday revealed that the order to expropriate Walaja land expired a year ago. The state now has less than 45 days to demonstrate the legitimacy of its claim to build through Walaja. After the injunction was issued, witnesses said construction efforts sped up noticeably.

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