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Palestinian PM evacuated from Bil’in protest

Fayyad’s bodyguards steer him away from tear gas as IDF faces off against stone-throwers

Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad reacts after inhaling tear gas fired during clashes between hundreds of Palestinian youths and Israeli security forces in the West Bank village of Bil'in on Friday, following a large march which headed toward the security fence in support of Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli jails, and marking eight years of weekly protests which kicked off in February 2005. (photo credit: Issam Rimawi/Flash90)
Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad reacts after inhaling tear gas fired during clashes between hundreds of Palestinian youths and Israeli security forces in the West Bank village of Bil'in on Friday, following a large march which headed toward the security fence in support of Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli jails, and marking eight years of weekly protests which kicked off in February 2005. (photo credit: Issam Rimawi/Flash90)

Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad was evacuated from a demonstration in the West Bank village of Bil’in on Friday afternoon when tear gas was shot at protesters by Israeli soldiers trying to disperse a riot in the village.

The Bil’in demonstration marked eight years of protests against a barrier Israel erected to keep out Palestinian suicide bombers following a wave of violence in the preceding decade.

Demonstrators held a march to the edge of the fence to protest against the barrier, which the Palestinians say is a land grab that cuts them off from their territory in some places.

They also marched to show solidarity with Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails, demanding the release of prisoners on hunger strike and warning of a backlash if any of them die. 

Before he was steered away from the demonstration, Fayyad addressed the marchers, saying that Bil’in had become “a shining example of popular resistance against the occupation, the settlements and the fence.”

Israel Radio reported that Fayyad was treated at the scene for exposure to tear gas.

A Palestinian youth throws a tear gas canister back at an Israeli border guard using a tennis racket during clashes in the West Bank village of Bil'in, near Ramallah, on Friday. (photo credit: Issam Rimawi/Flash90)
A Palestinian youth throws a tear gas canister back at an Israeli border guard using a tennis racket during clashes in the West Bank village of Bil’in, near Ramallah, on Friday. (photo credit: Issam Rimawi/Flash90)

Earlier Friday, an Israeli soldier was lightly wounded from rock-throwing in Bil’in, according to Israel Radio.

The soldier was hurt while trying to disperse a protest in the village. He was treated at the scene.

In recent years, Bil’in has been the site of weekly demonstrations protesting the route of the security barrier which runs through village lands.

Riots erupted in various other locations in the West Bank Friday, with hundreds of Palestinian protesters hurling rocks at Israeli security forces in Hawara, near Hebron, as well as more minor riots in Abu Dis, Bethlehem, Nabi Salih, Nablus and Salfit.

Mohammed Samhan of the Red Crescent said dozens of protesters were treated for injuries caused by rubber bullets and tear gas inhalation. Israel’s military said hundreds of Palestinians threw rocks and firebombs at the soldiers.

Palestinian media reported that several Palestinians were wounded from rubber bullets near Ramallah. The Palestinian Ma’an news agency said two protesters, 20-year-old Mahmoud Audah and journalist Jihad al-Qadi, were critically injured in the clashes.

Israel Radio reported that in the village of At-Tur, in East Jerusalem, rock-throwers caused damage to a Jewish-owned vehicle.

No other casualties were reported, though damage was caused to a building in Hebron.  

IDF troops used riot dispersal methods to break up the protests.

Meanwhile on Friday afternoon, an Israeli military vehicle was damaged when Palestinians in the northern Gaza Strip shot rifle fire and threw firebombs and rocks toward the border fence.The damaged vehicle belonged to a high-ranking IDF officer.

The Friday incident marked the first time that live fire was shot from Gaza into Israel since November’s Operation Pillar of Defense.

Palestinian sources said three men aged 19 to 21 were shot in the lower legs near the Gaza border fence. They were said to have been shot by IDF troops who were guarding the border. Other Palestinian reports said the three were farmers it by tank fire, while Israeli sources said there had been no tank fire, and that the three had been injured during an internal dispute that had nothing to do with Israel.

Palestinian protests in the West Bank flared up on Sunday and Monday after a Palestinian detainee in an Israeli prison, Arafat Jaradat, died from what Israeli officials said was cardiac arrest. The Palestinian Authority charged that Israel had tortured Jaradat to death.

Palestinians protest in the West Bank after the funeral of Arafat Jaradat last week. Jaradat's death in an Israeli jail on Saturday and a hunger strike by four other Palestinian inmates have raised tension in the West Bank in recent weeks, leading to repeated clashes between Palestinians rock-throwers and Israeli soldiers in recent days. (photo credit: Issam Rimawi/Flash90)
Palestinians protest in the West Bank after the funeral of Arafat Jaradat last week. Jaradat’s death in an Israeli jail on Saturday and a hunger strike by four other Palestinian inmates have raised tension in the West Bank in recent weeks, leading to repeated clashes between Palestinians rock-throwers and Israeli soldiers in recent days. (photo credit: Issam Rimawi/Flash90)

On Sunday, the clashes raged for hours, notably in and around the city of Hebron. Israel’s security forces braced for major demonstrations surrounding Jaradat’s funeral on Monday, but it passed without major incident.

Recent weeks have seen a gradual upsurge in West Bank protests in solidarity with Palestinian security prisoners in Israeli jails, several of whom have been hunger-striking. Some Israeli experts believe the Palestinian Authority is seeking to foster a new popular uprising, like the first intifada, which raged between 1987 and 1993. PA officials deny this.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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