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Demonstrators call for the end of settlement expansion and arrest campaign on Bil’in residents

20 November 2009

Residents of Bil’in gathered in a demonstration today, commemorating the 21st anniversary of the Declaration of Independence and condemning the ongoing expansion of illegal Israeli settlements.

After the Friday midday prayers, about 150 Palestinian, Israeli and international activists raised dozens of Palestinian flags and posters with the picture of the late Yasser Arafat and chanted slogans calling for the national leadership to keep fighting for the national principles. In a reaction to recent announcements from the Israeli government regarding plans to continue with the construction of 900 new housing units in the settlement of Gilo, they protested against the expansion of illegal settlements in East Jerusalem and the threat this expansion poses for the future Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital. The demonstrators marched to the Wall built on Bil’in’s land, where the Israeli army, based on the other side of the fence, responded to their presence by throwing tear gas bombs and shooting tear gas canisters. Dozens suffered from the effects of tear gas inhalation.

In addition, residents of Bil’in were calling today for the end of the ongoing arrest campaign, which escalated the day before, when a group of undercover Israeli soldiers invaded the village and arrested a local youth, Mohammad Yassin (19), who was targeted for his participation in the weekly demonstrations. They entered the village in a civilian Isuzu pick-up, dressed like Palestinians, and went directly to the workshop where Mohammad works. Before he was arrested, he was beaten by the soldiers, as were his brother and mother. In addition to Yassin, another 27 Bil’in residents were arrested for their involvement in the demonstrations since the 23 June 2009. Among them is Adeeb Abu Rahma, who has been held in detention for more than four months under a charge of ‘incitement’ – organizing demonstrations.