SHAFAQNA – Scuffles have broken out when Israeli forces attacked two separate groups of Palestinians protesting in the occupied West Bank and opened fire to disperse the crowds. On Friday, dozens of Palestinians and international activists held a demonstration in the village of Bil’in, located about 12 kilometers (7.4 miles) west of the city of Ramallah, to express their resentment over the construction of the separation wall, which snakes across the occupied West Bank, isolating large swathes of Palestinian land.
Violence erupted when Israeli troops assaulted the protesters and fired tear gas canisters to break up the protest. Israeli soldiers also arrested several people. There were no immediate reports of casualties.
The total length of the wall being built in the West Bank is approximately 700 kilometers. Palestinians see the wall as a symbol of occupation and Tel Aviv’s apartheid policies, saying the structure has divided people and communities.
Separately, Palestinians clashed with Israeli troops in the southern West Bank city of al-Khalil (Hebron), situated 30 kilometers (18 miles) south of al-Quds (Jerusalem), on Friday.
The protesters were demanding the opening of Shuhada (Martyrs) Street in the city. The street has been closed to Palestinians for more than 20 years now after Baruch Kopel Goldstein, an American immigrant doctor, gunned down 29 Palestinian prayers at the al-Ibrahimi Mosque on February 25, 1994.
Six years later, following the start of the Second Intifada against the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories, the Israeli military declared the street a closed military zone.
Palestinians say the closure of the central street is disruptive and helps Israel to further solidify its control over the area. Martyrs Street, which once linked northern and southern parts of al-Khalil, used to be the central wholesale market of the region. However, its urban structure changed dramatically when Israel closed the main street to Palestinians, turned the central bus station into a military base, and closed all Palestinian shops and markets.
A large number of Palestinians living in the street have been displaced and those residing in adjacent neighborhoods use their roofs in order to move between their houses.