Hundreds Mark Second Anniversary of Bil'in Barrier

Hundreds of Palestinians and Israelis took part Friday in a demonstration marking two years since the beginning of protests against the building of the separation fence at Bil'in. Sixteen demonstrators were injured in clashes with security forces. Four were treated at the hospital and released.

Bil'in, near the settlement of Modi'in Ilit, has become a symbol of the struggle against the fence. Half of Bil'in's lands are on Israel's side of the barrier, and the town has been the scene of weekly protests, with the participation of Israelis, Palestinians and foreigners.

Demonstrators say their protests are non-violent, but in many cases soldiers have fired tear gas and rubber-coated steel bullets, and demonstrators have thrown stones. One soldier lost an eye to a stone thrown by Palestinians, and three Palestinians each lost an eye after riot-control actions.

Demonstrators have video-taped protests, and in some cases Palestinian protesters were released after the tapes showed the military court that the demonstrators had not been involved in violence. Military Judge Colonel Shmuel Kedar recently said that in a video he was shown, "there is more violence on the part of security forces than demonstrators. Although the soldiers see the cameras, [they] do not restrain themselves from showing an ugly face to demonstrators who have come to protest in a democratic way."

Senior West Bank Fatah officials took part in Friday's protest. Among them was Mustafa Barghouti, who is expected to be appointed a minister in the new Palestinian Authority cabinet, and who said he feels a "new popular protest movement" was rising "and Bil'in is its symbol." MK Jamal Zahalka (Balad) was also present.