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40 Palestinian Protesters Injured by Israeli Occupation Soldiers at Qalandiya Crossing Point

 May 15, 2011

Clashes at Qalandiya see 40 seriously injured

Published today (updated) 15/05/2011 19:28 RAMALLAH (Ma'an) --

Violent clashes broke out at the Qalandiya checkpoint between Ramallah and Jerusalem Sunday, as Palestinians marched in the area demanding the right of return for refugees exiled in 1948.

Marching to the military installment, teenagers hurled stones, and troops responded with tear gas and rubber bullets in the morning, with later reports saying live fire was being used.

Estimates put the number of protesters close to a thousand, and witnesses said young men were attempting to take down parts of Israel's separation wall at Qalandiya, where it is built more than five kilometers into Palestinian territory.

A statement from Israel's military said "600 Palestinians are violently rioting" in the area, noting "rocks were hurled, as were flares, at security forces who have been responding with riot dispersal means."

Black smoke billowed from tires dragged toward the checkpoint from the refugee camp, by young men whose faces were covered, making their way through clouds of tear gas.

Medics said 55 were evacuated from the protest in ambulance, and witnesses estimated six had been detained. Medics told AFP that at least one was badly injured, hit in the head with a rubber-coated bullet.

A doctor with the Palestinian Authority's Civil Defense Crews told Ma'an that 250 had been treated for injuries and tear-gas inhalation, noting 40 had been marked as seriously injured from bullet wounds.

The air at Qalandiya was thick with tear gas, which permeated through the adjacent Qalandiya refugee camp, prompting parents to keep young children indoors.

Treating an 80-year-old woman from the adjacent refugee camp, medics told Ma'an the tear-gas being used was different from the regular variety used by the military, and had caused at least 20 to go into seizures, with about half of those losing consciousness for at least half an hour.

An Israeli army spokeswoman said there were "around 200 people who were engaged in rioting" with border police using riot dispersal means to try and break up the disturbance.

In Ramallah's city center, Palestinians demanding the right of return for refugees held banners and waved flags. One large banner, shaped as a postcard, read:

Dear Haifa,

We are returning.

A Palestinian refugee

A rally near the tomb of former President Yasser Arafat drew what PLO organizers estimated as thousands, with head of the PLO office for refugee affairs telling crowds that the right of return would not be abandoned.

"All of our people must rally around this right; there will be no peace, security or stability in this region without the return of the refugees to their homeland, and their property from which they were expelled," member of PLO Executive committee Wasel Abu Yousef said.

He added that September would be a landmark month for Palestinian rights, referencing a Palestinian Authority effort to gain international recognition for a Palestinian state.

North of Ramallah, demonstrators gathered at the northern entrance to Birzeit University north of Ramallah, setting fire to used tires and throwing stones at Israeli troops stationed at Atara checkpoint.

Israeli forces fired rubber-coated bullets, tear-gas canisters and stun grenades at protesters. Several demonstrators fainted after choking on the gas, witnesses said.

Clashes were also reported in the East Jerusalem district of Issawiya, with youths throwing stones and hurling Molotov cocktails, police said.

"Stones were thrown at police. Three people were arrested and one police officer was slightly injured," Rosenfeld said.

Five detained in Al-Walaja events

Give were detained from what organizers called a "peaceful nonviolent civil disobedient march" in the West Bank village of Al-Walaja, where Palestinians and international supporters gathered for a work day to help residents of the village farm lands they have been denied access to as construction of the separation wall continues through private lands.

According to organizers, two foreign nationals and three Palestinians were among those detained, including prominent civil society member Mazen Qumsiyeh.

An estimated 150 people had staged the work day, marching toward the confiscated lands waving black flags and Palestinian flags, shouting: "Go away, go away! We don't want to see the Zionists," an AFP correspondent said

Israeli forces deploy en masse in West Bank

Israel Defense Minister Ehud Barak instructed forces to seal off the West Bank for 24 hours, starting at midnight Saturday.

Israel's general police commander Yohanan Danino told Israel Radio that officers would detain rioters.

Israeli police are on high alert, and 10,000 officers and border guards will be deployed in Jerusalem and the West Bank.

"We have mobilized thousands of police officers who are deployed in sensitive areas, particularly in Jerusalem and in the Wadi Ara area," spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said, referring to a northern area near Haifa which has a large population of Palestinians.

"Our forces have been placed on high alert in order to allow the planned events to go ahead, but we will not tolerate any violation of public order," Rosenfeld added.

Overnight, police arrested 13 Palestinians following demonstrations in occupied East Jerusalem, raising to 63 the total number arrested since Friday, he said, adding that eight police had been injured.

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