MK Among 10 Hurt at Anti-fence Protest

MK Mohammed Barakeh (Hadash) was among 10 left-wing activists and a press photographer who were lightly injured yesterday when security forces dispersed a demonstration against the separation fence close to the West Bank village on Bil'in.

Bil'in, which is located north of the Jerusalem-Modi'in highway, has been the site of daily demonstrations against the fence by Palestinians and Israeli leftists. Hundreds of dunams of village land, located in the West Bank, were confiscated for use in construction of the fence.

Police officers and Israel Defense Forces troops at the site clashed with the hundreds of protesters who attended the anti-fence rally. The security forces fired rubber bullets and sprayed tear gas to disperse the crowd. During the clashes, which also included fist-fights, an Associated Press photographer was lightly hurt, apparently by a stun grenade thrown by police officers.

According to the demonstrators, at one point a stun grenade also went off near Barakeh's leg. He was treated by an ambulance crew at the site.

During the clashes, undercover security forces mingled with the demonstrators and began to throw stones at the soldiers and police, demonstrators said. The undercover security forces had provoked the police and soldiers into opening fire with rubber bullets and tear gas. The demonstrators said they had not thrown stones at the soldiers and police.

Barakeh added that the protest had been calm and that the security forces had unnecessarily used excessive force in an effort to disperse the crowd. He said he had identified himself to the commander of the forces and that while talking with him, the stun grenade had been thrown.

Later in the day, Barakeh sent a letter to Attorney General Menachem Mazuz, Military Advocate General Avihai Mandelblit and the head of the Justice Ministry's police investigations department, Herzl Shviro, demanding that a criminal investigation be opened against those responsible for the firing of the stun grenade.

Military sources charged that Barakeh and the commander of the forces at the scene had not exchanged words; the sources added that the undercover forces had only started throwing stones after Palestinian youths had adopted such tactics. "Stone-throwing by the undercover forces is part of the way in which they operate in such instances," the sources said.