IDF breaks up Palestinian march toward West Bank settlement
The procession by Palestinians from Deir Jareer followed charges that Israeli settlers had attacked them twice this past week; IDF Spokesman says army is investigating the events leading up to the march.
The procession, the largest of its kind for years, followed charges by Palestinians that the Israeli settlers, whose caravans abut village land, had attacked them twice this week.
Men from Deir Jareer, including Christian and Muslim clerics, gathered for Friday prayers on a craggy outcrop between their village and a cluster of half a dozen makeshift settler homes surrounded by Israeli army jeeps and soldiers.
Their march, preceded by a group of stone-throwing youths, was repeatedly pushed back by salvoes of Israeli tear gas. Young boys howled from the effects of the tear gas and old men hitched up their robes to flee, holding onion slices to their noses.
Medics treated several men for gas inhalation and rubber bullet wounds.
A few Palestinian villages hold weekly protests against the Israeli army and settlements, usually involving a score of rock-throwing youngsters, and unrest has mounted this year.
But political gatherings are rare around Deir Jareer, and was sparked after villagers say settlers torched around ten of their cars on Monday night, after planting an Israeli flag on a derelict church on Friday and pelting village youth with stones.
"This was a peaceful area. We're gathered today to say we refuse to be attacked and driven off our own land," said Sami Issa, a resident. "We want their army to pull the settlers out."
The Israeli military has said it is investigating the events leading up to the march. Asked about Friday's incidents, an army spokesman said: "Soldiers responded to a group of some 250 stone-throwing youths with riot dispersal means near Ofra."
The United States is trying to revive long-stalled Israeli-Palestinian peace talks. Secretary of State John Kerry told Congress this month that these efforts were urgent because the chance to create a viable Palestinian state was fast receding.
"I believe the window for a two-state solution is shutting," Kerry said. "I think we have some period of time, a year to a year and a half to two years or it's over."