Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas condemned the Israel Defense Forces on Saturday for causing the death of a Palestinian woman after they shot tear gas at protesters in the West Bank village of Bil'in on Friday.
According to the official Palestinian news agency Wafa, Abbas called the act a "new Israeli crime carried out by the occupation army against our helpless nation."
Abbas, speaking from Brazil, offered his condolences to the family of 36-year-old Jawaher Abu Rahmah, who died Saturday morning in a Ramallah hospital after she was exposed to tear gas that was shot by IDF soldiers to disperse the crowd of demonstrators against the separation barrier in Bil'in on Friday.
Jawaher Abu Rahmah was the sister of Bassem Abu Rahmah, who was killed by an extended-range tear gas projectile fired at his chest by IDF soldiers at a demonstration against the separation wall in Bil'in on April 17, 2009.
Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat also condemned the death of the protester and called the IDF's act a "war crime."
"We condemn this horrifying crime by the Israeli army against participants in the peaceful demonstration," Erekat said. "This is part of the war crimes that Israel carries out against our nation."
Moreover, the organization Peace Now demanded that Defense Minister Ehud Barak appoint an external investigation committee that would probe IDF actions during the protest.
Weekly demonstrations against the fence have been held in Bil'in for the past five years, where villagers say the barrier unjustly separates them from their lands. In 2007, the Supreme Court accepted these arguments and ruled that the route of the fence should be moved, and that some 170 acres of land be returned to the villagers. The IDF has yet to implement the court's decision.
The weekly demonstrations against the separation barrier set out from the village under the banner 'The Last Day of the Wall.' Although the IDF announced that the area was a closed military zone and set up a number of roadblocks around the village, hundreds of Palestinian, Israel and international demonstrators succeeded in reaching the center of the village by foot.
Over the course of the demonstration, activists succeeded in tearing three holes in the chain-link fence that comprises the separation barrier in Bil'in, and in removing a section of it, which they later mounted on display in the center of the village.
Demonstrators reported that IDF soldiers shot massive amounts of tear gas into the village, and that they felt that the tear gas was especially potent. After Abu Rahmah choked on the gas, she was taken to a hospital in Ramallah.
The doctors that treated Abu Rahmah told her family that she was not responding to their treatment. Over the course of the night, her condition worsened, and she died at nine o'clock in the morning on Saturday.
IDF sources say Abu Rahmah's death may have been the result of an asthmatic condition compounded by the tear gas, and that if the gas had been any different than usual more people who have been negatively affected by it.
The sources added that the incident was under investigation and that they are awaiting clarifications from Palestinian medical officials, as they have up until now received inconsistent reports from the Palestinian side.
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