Anti-wall protests celebrate national unity

May 6, 2011

RAMALLAH (Ma’an) — Palestinians celebrated national unity at anti-wall protests in villages across the West Bank on Friday.

Protesters in Al-Ma’sara and Bil’in carried coffins to symbolize the death of the division, after Hamas and Fatah signed a reconciliation agreement in Cairo last week.

In Bil’in, near Ramallah, two villagers dressed as Fatah leader President Mahmoud Abbas and Hamas chief Khalid Mash’al carried the coffin. Protesters burned the coffin at the gate of Israel’s separation wall in what they said was a message that the end to the division was permanent.

Demonstrators sang the Palestinian national anthem and raised Palestinian, Fatah and Hamas flags, chanting slogans welcoming the unity deal.

Israeli forces fired tear gas, rubber-coated steel bullets and chemical water to shut down the rally, protest organizers said, adding that soldiers assaulted and detained 15-year-old Iyad Al Khatib.

In Al-Ma’sara, south of Bethlehem, demonstrators cheered for national unity and held banners supporting reconciliation.

Israeli soldiers closed the entrances to the village and detained two international activists and the coordinator of the Popular Committee Against the Wall, Mahmud Hussein Zawahra, a statement from the committee said.

Meanwhile in Nil’in, hundreds of Palestinians gathered near the wall for Friday prayers led by Sheikh Muhammad Tayeh.

The sheikh praised Fatah and Hamas for signing the unity deal, and said Palestinians should not pay attention to Israeli threats. Israel wanted Palestinians to be divided, he said.

After prayers, villagers and internationals held a peaceful demonstration to celebrate reconciliation, waving Palestinian flags beside Fatah and Hamas flags.

Israeli forces shot tear gas canisters and sound grenades toward demonstrators, and fired live ammunition in the air, protest organizers said, adding that dozens were injured.

An Israeli military spokeswoman said soldiers used “riot dispersal means” in Bil’in and Ni’lin in response to protesters who “hurled rocks at security forces.”

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