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Middle East
Clashes erupt at West Bank protest
Israeli forces fire tear gas at Palestinians rallying against separation wall.
Last Modified: 20 Feb 2010 03:08 GMT

Israeli security forces have fired tear gas and munitions at a group of Palestinians staging a protest in the West Bank town of Bi'lin to mark the fifth anniversary of a separation wall built by Israel.

Sherine Tadros, Al Jazeera's correspondent, said Israeli forces reacted strongly after a number of demonstrators managed to cross a fence and threw empty gas canisters at soldiers.

"The Israeli army fired tear gas and began throwing various munitions over the fence including skunk gas ... which is very harmful," she said.

Television footage showed one person receiving treatment after Israeli forces had fired munitions at the group.

'Act of desperation'

Al Jazeera's Tadros said the situation was "incredibly dangerous".

"In the past five years five Palestinian international activists have been killed because of the tear gas canisters hitting them, the rubber bullets and the live munitions.

"This is something that has been really criticised by rights groups who have said Israel's use of these kinds of munititions for crowd dispersal is against international law and the impunity with which they use them should be held to account."

In a statement the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF), said it would "use means at its disposal" in the case of violence.

Israel says the wall is a "central factor in thwarting terrorists who operate to harm Israeli civilians".

But many Palestinians have viewed the wall as a land grab - with the wall cutting through some towns, such as Bi'lin.

Earlier this month Israel began rerouting a section of its separation barrier near Bi'lin, following a two-and-a-half-year-old court ruling.

The move will return about 700,000 square metres of land to the Palestinian side of the wall.

But our correspondent said activists want Israel to take down the wall altogether.

"The International Court of Justice as well as United Nations has said the wall is illegal. And that is what the protests here are about.

"It's almost an act of desperation by the people here to bring the point home to the international community that they must pressure Israel to get rid of this wall, which separates villages, cuts through Palestinian land and makes life so difficult in the occupied West Bank".

Source:
Al Jazeera
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