West Bank activists injured in protests against apartheid wall
RAMALLAH, — Several activists were injured and arrested on Friday afternoon when Israeli military forces used rubber bullets and tear gas canisters to suppress marches against the apartheid wall in villages in Ramallah and Bethlehem.
The Popular Committee against the Wall and Settlement organized its weekly march against the separation wall and Israeli settlement policies on Friday in the village of Bil’in, near Ramallah.
Upon arriving at the construction site of the wall, clashes broke out between marchers and the Israeli military forces after troops stationed behind the wall chased away marchers and set off dozens of gas and stun bombs in front of them. One Palestinian and another foreign activist were hit with rubber bullets and dozens suffered breathing difficulties from the gas bombs.
In the neighboring village of Ni’lin, Israeli forces detained, while suppressing a weekly march, B’Tselem media spokesman Sarit Michael, popular committee against the wall photographer, Mohammed Abu Umaira, and an ambulance crew from the Palestinian Red Crescent.
Seven demonstrators were arrested and several knocked unconscious in the village of Nabi Saleh when the Israeli army suppressed another weekly march against the wall.
In related developments, Amnesty International and the European Union denounced the Israeli court’s conviction of a Palestinian political activist detained since last December over involvement in demonstrations against the apartheid wall, saying that the step is meant to deter others from taking part in legitimate involvement in protests.
The coordinator of the Popular Committee in Bil’in, Abdullah Abu Rahma, was convicted on charges of “incitement and involvement in the organization of an illegal demonstration.”
The International Court of Justice issued an advisory opinion in 2004 which unanimously considered the apartheid wall in the occupied Palestinian territory a violation of international law.
Amnesty International Middle East and North Africa Director Malcolm Smart said that Abu Rahma is now facing jail time for exercising his right to freedom of expression in protesting against the construction of the wall of racial separation.
On her behalf, European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton issued a statement that the EU considers Abu Rahma, 39, a non-violent defender of human rights.