Security fence near Bil’in being moved

Work to change the route of the security fence near the Palestinian village of Bil’in, the site of weekly protests, is nearly complete.

The move, which will place more land under Palestinian control, will be completed in two months, the Israeli army said Wednesday. Israel’s Supreme Court had ordered the move nearly four years ago.

“We are fully applying the High Court decision and are returning the land to the residents of Bil’in,” Lt. Col. Shahar Sheetrit said.

Sheetrit said that the Palestinians during the weekly demonstrations had complained that the work mandated by the court had not begun.

“Now they are seeing with their eyes that the planned work is being completed and that it is going to happen soon,” he said.

The Israeli army said it does not expect the weekly demonstrations in Bil’in and the nearby village of Ni’lin, located west of Ramallah in the West Bank, to stop once the route is changed.

The Supreme Court’s 2007 decision required that a 1,860-yard-long portion of the security barrier be dismantled and that an alternative be built on a new route closer to the Israeli city of Modi’in Illit. The panel of judges found that the original route was designed to allow for the growth of Modi’in Illit and not for security reasons. 

Weekly protests by Palestinians and left-wing activists against the security fence have taken place in Bil’in since 2007. Last December, a Palestinian protester died after inhaling tear gas sprayed during a demonstration.

No evidence Palestinian woman died from tear gas, military says

There is no evidence that a Palestinian woman reportedly killed at a West Bank security fence protest died from tear gas poisoning, Israel’s military said.

Jawaher Abu Rahma, 36, died on the morning of Jan. 1, hours after she was said to have inhaled tear gas at a demonstration near the West Bank village of Bilin. She reportedly died of complications from inhaling the tear gas.

Israeli media citing Israel Defense Forces sources, reported late Monday that inconsistencies in the medical report of the woman’s death, provided Monday by the Palestinian Authority, call into question the circumstances of her death and contradict the family’s account.

Israeli activist Jonathan Pollak disputed claims that Abu Rahma was not at the demonstration, telling the Jerusalem Post that he saw her at the demonstration, though not on the front line, and that he saw her being loaded into an ambulance.

While the file shows that her blood was collected for testing at the hospital at 2:45 p.m. on Dec. 31, the admission form says she entered the hospital at 3:20 p.m.

Abu Rahma’s medical file also showed that she was taking strong drugs for a medical condition that could have been leukemia, and that she had been treated in the hospital 10 days prior to her death. Pollak told the Jerusalem Post that Abu Rahma was treated in the hospital for an ear infection, though Haaretz reported that during the earlier hospitalization a Palestinian ear, nose and throat doctor ordered a CT scan.

No other protester had a serious reaction to the tear gas used at the demonstration. Abu Rahma’s death sparked demonstrations outside of the U.S. Ambassador to Israel’s home and the IDF headquarters in Tel Aviv, leading to arrests.

Palestinian protests, which are joined by Israelis and international activists, take place at the site every Friday. Abu Rahma reportedly had been attending the weekly protests for the last five years. Her brother, Bassem, was killed in April 2009 during a demonstration in the same area, after being hit in the chest with a tear gas canister as it released its contents. A second brother, Ashraf, was wounded several years ago after being shot during a demonstration against the security fence near the village of Naalin.

The IDF on Sunday released photos showing that the Dec. 31 demonstration at Bilin became violent, and thus required the use of tear gas, despite Palestinian claims that the protest was non-violent. The photos show Palestinians throwing rocks using large slingshots.