Thousands of Palestinians and international peace activists took to the streets throughout the West Bank and Gaza Strip on Monday to protest against Israel's separation barrier.
The demonstrations coincided with the International Court of Justice's hearings in The Hague on the legality of the barrier which Palestinians contend is carving into Israel large swathes of their land, ghettoising their towns and villages.
Protesters flocked to towns and villages encircled by the wall, carrying large signs and placards denouncing the gigantic structure as "evil and criminal".
One sign held aloft by a demonstrator in downtown al-Khalil (Hebron) described the "Nazi wall" as the "moral equivalent of a holocaust".
In Abu Dis, where one of the largest demonstrations took place, Israeli troops and border police fired tear gas canisters and rubber-coated bullets at protesters, injuring several.
A number of journalists and cameramen also suffered from gas inhalation and some of them had to be transferred to hospital.
In al-Khalil in the southern West Bank, Israeli troops posted on high rooftops also opened fire on protesters, injuring five of them.
South African example
Among those participating in al-Khalil demonstration was Palestinian legislative Council member Muhammad Hurani.
Hurani told Aljazeera.net the Palestinian Authority hoped a "positive verdict" by the world court would "create a certain international momentum not only against the wall, but also against the Israeli occupation of our homeland".
PA official, Muhammad Hurani
urged mobilisation against barrier
"We realize that a decision by the ICJ declaring the wall illegal will not create miracles. But we will seek to mobilize the international community and the United Nations to act upon the decision", he added.
"I assure you we are not going to sit down and indulge in self-gratification after a decision denouncing the wall is adopted", Hamuri stressed.
"We will follow the South African example in the hope that this wicked occupation of our country will come to an end once and for all as the defunct apartheid regime in South Africa ended once and for all."
In Ram Allah, thousands of Palestinians, including civic and political leaders, converged on al-Manara Square to take part in the anti-barrier rally.
At least five protesters were hurt
by Israeli gunfire in al-Khalil
High-ranking Fatah official Sakhr Habash told Aljazeera TV he hoped a condemnatory verdict by the ICJ would "hound and haunt every Israeli wherever he or she goes with the stigma that they belong to a racist state".
Both Hurani and Habash castigated Sunday’s bus-bombing attack in West Jerusalem, describing it as "stupid and playing into Israeli hands".
Several other Palestinian leaders have likewise denounced the bombing, calling it a “timely propaganda gift for the Israeli government”.
Among the many international peace activists joining the demonstrations in the West Bank on Monday was Dorah Rosen, an American Jew, based in Birmingham, Alabama.
An American Jew, Dorah Rosen,
joined in the anti-barrier protests
Rosen referred to the barrier as "this evil thing," saying that "walls will never bring peace and reconciliation, neither here nor elsewhere."
She described as "mendacious and only disingenuous" Israeli claims the wall was intended first and foremost to prevent Palestinian bombers from infiltrating into Israel.
Rosen denied that the bulk of American Jewry were behind Israel "right or wrong".
She said AIPAC (the American-Israeli Public Action Committee) was a pressure group representing an influential minority of American Jews.
Israel is using the latest's bus-bombing in West Jerusalem, in which eight Israelis, including at least two soldiers, were killed and more than 30 others injured, as a propaganda gimmick to counter Palestinian media efforts against the wall.
The barrier splits the West Bank
town of Abu Dis into two
Israeli authorities on Monday moved the shell of the bombed bus to a prominent site opposite the "apartheid wall" in Abu Dis.
Israeli officials hope the view will be an effective defence of Israel’s position, namely that the wall is a defensive measure against Palestinian violence.
Palestinian Authority officials condemned the bombing, repeating the traditional Palestinian rejection of "violence against Palestinian and Israeli civilians".
'Bantustans and ghettos'
Shortly before the hearing on the barrier got underway in The Hague, Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasir Arafat accused Israel of seeking to "destroy the very possibility of a viable Palestinian state".
(Israel is turning) "our towns and villages into Bantustans and ghettos controlled by Jewish settlements which the occupation regime established on our land by force"
Chairman, Palestinian Authority
In a televised address, Arafat said the wall was taking into Israel more than 58% of the total area of the West Bank and turning "our towns and villages into Bantustans and ghettos controlled by Jewish settlements which the occupation regime established on our land by force".
Arafat appealed to "peace-loving Israelis"to join forces with the Palestinian people to express rejection of this "expansionist wall" for the sake of "a just and lasting peace between our two peoples".