Hit from both sides: Israeli forces and PA security attack demonstrators in Bethlehem

On Palm Sunday, Palestinian and other protestors tried to march from Bethlehem to Jerusalem without permits — saying that they should not need permits to visit holy sites and attend religious services in Jerusalem.

According to information received by email, “The march, which began after the Palm Sunday service at the Church of Nativity in Bethlehem, was held to protest a recent aggravation of Israeli restrictions on movement through the checkpoint. Protesters [reportedly about 200] aimed to highlight restrictions on access to Jerusalem on the day marking Jesus’ entrance to Jerusalem in Christian tradition”.

Another message said that” The demonstrators marked Palm Sunday and demanded to exercise the centuries old Christian tradition of pilgrimage to Jerusalem on that day …  While Israelis and internationals are, as a matter of policy, subject to Israeli law, which only allows for a 24 hours detention by the police, Palestinians are subject to Israeli Military Law, which allows for their detention for a period of eight days before being brought in front of a judge”…

Four Israeli demonstrators and one international were released more or less straight away, the same evening.  About a eleven others were Palestinians, however — and they were sent to Ofer prison not far from the Qalandia Checkpoint between Jerusalem and Ramallah.  The Palestinians will be held in prison for at least another four days (including over the first holy days of Passover on Monday night and Tuesday), and their detention could be extended once again.

A second protest march was organized today near the main Bethelehm Checkpoint (“300”, or “Rachel’s Tomb”), and Ma’an News Agency has reported that “Israeli soldiers manning the military installation fired tear-gas canisters and stun grenades toward protesters who, in turn, retaliated by pelting empty bottles and stones … [Then] Confrontations further erupted near Rachel’s Tomb when PA forces intervened in the march, attacking protesters.  Heated arguments ensued between journalists covering the incident and PA forces.  Journalists began a sit-in near the tomb as a result.  Fatah’s Bethlehem spokesman Muhammad Lahham told Ma’an that ‘Palestinian security behaved improperly, and despite the fact that we take into account security agreements with Israeli authorities, such assaults against journalists and protesters are never justified”.  This report can be read in full here.

Meanwhile, YNet is reporting that “Israel will allow a shipment of clothes and shoes to be delivered to Palestinians in the Gaza Strip for the first time in its almost three-year-old tight blockade of the enclave, Palestinian officials said on Monday. They said the first 10 truckloads would be arriving via the Israeli-controlled Gaza border point on Thursday … Israel prohibits shipments of cement and steel to Gaza on the grounds that Hamas could use them for military purposes. Its long list of controlled goods also includes items that critics say have no apparent military value, such as children’s crayons and books. Gaza has been getting most of its consumer goods via tunnels from neighboring Egypt operated by smugglers who add on hefty surcharges. Gaza merchants said 10 truckloads would not fill their stocks and demanded that Israel release goods long held in its sea ports. Egypt is building an underground wall to block the tunnels, which have been frequently bombed by the Israeli air forces”… This report is posted here.

And, U.S. President Barack Obama has sent out a Passover message to Jews around the world, saying that: “The enduring story of the Exodus teaches us that, wherever we live, there is oppression to be fought and freedom to be won. In retelling this story from generation to generation, we are reminded of our ongoing responsibility to fight against all forms of suffering and discrimination, and we reaffirm the ties that bind us all. These bonds are the source of inextinguishable courage and strength, and provide hope that we can repair this world”… Obama’s statement is reported in full in the Jerusalem Post here.

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