Several Palestinians suffocated by teargas while two others were detained by the Israeli soldiers who quelled a non-violent march outside the town of Beit Jala, North of Bethlehem, to protest ongoing Israeli construction of parts of the Israeli segregation barrier on the town’s lands.
Local sources said the Israeli army attacked the protesters, including Christian clergymen and state officials, with stun grenades and teargas canisters, causing multiple cases of suffocation. Meanwhile, the army arrested two of the protesters, who were not identified yet, WAFA reported.
Among the protesters were state officials and political leaders, including Governor of Bethlehem Jebrin el-Bakri, the Chairman of the Anti-Settlement Commission, Waleed Assaf, as well as Ramzi Rabah, an official in the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP).
Assaf said the march aims to protest all forms of land confiscation to support settlement construction and expansion by Israel. He called for similar protests to affirm the Palestinian stand against the Israeli Apartheid Wall and settlement activities.
He said the commission is planning to hold a conference to address these issues, and said they would invite multiple international actors, including consul generals and clergymen, to participate in it to voice their rejection of the Israeli Apartheid system.
Michel Sabbah, the former Archbishop and Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, who participated in the march condemned quelling the protest, and called on the international community and the Christian world to stop the Israeli violations in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. “The land is ours, and they (the Israelis) are powerful in terms of arms, not in terms of humanity,” he said.
Only last Saturday, Israeli forces quelled a weekly march near Bethlehem calling for protecting a Christian site at Hebron-Jerusalem road against Israeli attempts to take over it for settlement purposes.
The march saw Palestinian and international anti-settlement activists protest against recent Israeli works to renovate Beit al-Baraka church compound, to the North of Hebron, which settlers claim they have previously purchased, as a prelude to the construction of a new settlement in its place.
According to Israeli media, a number of studies have cast doubts about Israel’s use of CS tear gas as a method of crowd-dispersal, and said this kind of teargas has in recent years caused several cases of death.
An interview conducted by the Israeli daily Haaretz in 2011 also revealed that some eye and lung injuries, as well as skin diseases, could be associated with the use of CS tear gas.
The Israeli army and police have long used teargas as a frequent method to suppress the growing movement of unarmed resistance against Israel’s illegal confiscation of Palestinian land for Israeli settlements.