Scuffles broke out on Wednesday between Israeli authorities and protesters who feared preparations were underway to raze a Bedouin village in a strategic part of the occupied West Bank, despite international calls for a reprieve.
Protesters, including some waving Palestinian flags, tried to block a bulldozer and scuffled with police at Khan al-Ahmar on the eastern outskirts of Jerusalem. Some climbed onto the bulldozer in protest.
Israeli rights group B’Tselem said nine people were arrested – five from the village and four others, including the organisation’s own head of field research.
The Palestinian Red Crescent reported 35 people injured, with four taken to hospital.
Police reported two arrests and said stones were thrown at officers.
The incident came after activists said the Israeli military had issued a warrant to the 173 residents of Khan al-Ahmar on Tuesday, authorising itself to seize access roads to the village.
Heavy equipment was seen around the village on Wednesday, prompting speculation a road was being prepared to facilitate its evacuation and demolition.
‘Today they are proceeding with infrastructure work to facilitate the demolition and forcible transfer of residents,’ Amit Gilutz, spokesman for B’Tselem, said.
Israeli authorities say the village and its school were built illegally, and in May the supreme court rejected a final appeal against its demolition.
But activists say the villagers had little alternative but to build without Israeli construction permits, as the documents are almost never issued to Palestinians for building in parts of the West Bank where Israel has full control over civilian affairs.
Israel authorities say they have offered villagers an alternative site.
The village is made up mainly of makeshift structures of tin and wood, as is traditionally the case with Bedouin villages.
Britain’s minister of state for the Middle East, Alistair Burt, visited the village in May and called on the Israeli government to show restraint.
Meanwhile, thousands of Palestinian women demonstrated Tuesday along the fence that separates the Gaza Strip from Israel, their first mass mobilisation since protests erupted on the border three months ago.
Since the end of March, Gazans have been demonstrating along the heavily guarded frontier in protest at Israel’s decade-long blockade of the territory and in support of the Palestinians’ right to return to lands they fled or were driven from during the war surrounding the creation of Israel in 1948.
On Tuesday, women arrived in buses from across the enclave, many accompanied by their children, AFP correspondents said.
They moved in groups to within 50 meters (yards) of the fence that divides the Gaza Strip from Israeli territory, they reported.
Seventeen people were wounded by Israeli gunfire, Gaza’s health ministry spokesman Ashraf al-Qodra said.
‘I came to finish the march that my daughter had started,’ Rim Abu Irmana said, waving a picture of her 15-year-old daughter, Wasal, who was killed by Israeli gunfire on May 14.
‘These demonstrations are peaceful. We are only defending our land and our rights,’ added the 43-year-old, holding the hand of her young son.
Since the protests and clashes broke out along the Gaza border on March 30, at least 138 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli fire.
The majority were involved in protests and clashes but others were seeking to breach or damage the border fence.
No Israelis have been killed.
The demonstrations peaked when at least 62 Palestinians were killed as thousands approached the border fence in protest at the US decision to move its embassy to Israel from Tel Aviv to the disputed city of Jerusalem on May 14.
Israel insists the whole of Jerusalem is its ‘eternal indivisible capital’ but the Palestinians claim the eastern sector, which Israel occupied in the Six-Day War of 1967 and later annexed, as the capital of their future state.
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