Shereen Abu Aqla said more than 2000 people, including foreign peace activists, gathered to demonstrate against Israel's illegal separation barrier on Friday. The protest started at Bilain village where Palestinian lands have been confiscated to build the wall.

 

The confrontation started when Israeli occupation soldiers tried to stop the demonstration. The demonstrators fought the soldiers by hand, and the forces responded with rubber-coated metal bullets injuring several Palestinians.

 

Bilain has been witnessing since February 2004 continuous anti-separation wall demonstrations.

 

About 2300 hectares of farmland has been confiscated from the villagers in the area in favour of the separation wall which Israel intends to build, saying it will protect it from Palestinian bombers. 

 

A bomber blew himself up on Thursday in a crowded pedestrian mall near Tel Aviv's central bus station, injuring at least 22 people.

 

Thursday's was the first such attack in Israel since a truce expired at the end of last year. 

 

The bombing was also the first since Ariel Sharon, the Israeli prime minister, was incapacitated by a stroke on 4 January. The attack could put pressure on interim leader Ehud Olmert to launch strong reprisals as Palestinians prepare for parliamentary elections next week. 

 

Re-divide Jerusalem  

In other developments, the Israeli Labour party says it would be willing to re-divide Jerusalem and hand over the city's Arab eastern sector to the Palestinians under a final peace accord, an Israeli newspaper reported on Friday.

 

Bilain has been the scene of 
anti-separation wall protests

According to the new Labour election platform, drawn up by senior party members, the centre-left party would be willing to hand over all the Arab districts of occupied east Jerusalem, the website of the Haaretz daily newspaper said.

"Jerusalem, in all its Jewish neighbourhoods, will be Israel's eternal capital," the platform states.

"This is a statement that we are willing to give up the Muslim neighbourhoods of Jerusalem in order to strengthen the Jewish majority," Labour deputy Yuli Tamir told Haaretz.

 

There was no immediate confirmation from Labour party officials.

Mainstream party

Although the party would seek to retain control of Jewish neighbourhoods and holy Jewish sites in east Jerusalem, including in the Old City, it marks the first time a mainstream party has shown willingness to cede parts of Jerusalem.

The platform is to be officially unveiled at a party convention on Sunday, Haaretz said.

It also proposes a freeze on all investments in Jewish development in the West Bank and that all unauthorised settlement outposts be removed, both key demands of the internationally-drafted Middle East peace road map.

The report came a day after a poll showed that more than half of Israeli Jews would be willing to hand over the city's Arab eastern sector in exchange for a final peace agreement.

Statistics compiled by Tazpit Research and published in Haaretz showed 54.4% of Israelis would give up Arab neighbourhoods in annexed east Jerusalem, but without relinquishing control over the Old City.

 

Unilateral pullout

A poll conducted by the Israeli newspaper showed most Israelis favour a further unilateral pullout from occupied West Bank land following last year's withdrawal from the Gaza Strip, an Israeli newspaper poll showed on Friday.

Israelis believe the wall will
protect them from Palestinians 

Fifty-one per cent would approve a unilateral pullout from land Israel captured in the 1967 Middle East war because they believed Palestinian leaders were incapable of negotiating a deal with Israel, according to the newspaper Maariv.

Olmert was a strong supporter of the Gaza withdrawal, which was completed in September and boosted hopes for Middle East peace.

Olmert has not said whether he would pursue a further unilateral pullout from West Bank land.

Two polls published on Friday showed Olmert's centrist Kadima party winning the largest share of seats in Israel's 120-member parliament with 43, ahead of a general election scheduled for28 March, in line with previous surveys.