West Bank marchers mourn tear-gassed woman

Jawaher died after inhaling huge amounts of tear gas fired at demonstrators.

Updated: Jan 08, 2011, 13:21 PM IST

Bilin: Around 700 people, many of them women, attended a memorial march in the West Bank on Friday to honour a woman who died after being tear-gassed by Israeli troops, organisers said.

The march took place in the West Bank village of Bilin, exactly a week after the collapse and subsequent death of Jawaher Abu Rahma, a 36-year-old villager who had been at the weekly protest against the vast separation barrier Israel is building across the occupied West Bank.

Abu Rahma died after inhaling massive amounts of tear gas fired at demonstrators.

The Israeli Army has rejected the Palestinian account of her death, arguing that her death was probably because of a pre-existing medical complaint. The military is currently conducting its own investigation.

Many mourners wore stickers in the shape of a large yellow star with eight points and the word "Palestine" in the middle, which was clearly meant to look like the yellow cloth star the Nazis forced Jews to wear in World War II.

Organiser Rateb Abu Rahma said the demonstrators wanted to send a message to the army that they did not want to be treated as the Germans treated the Jews during the war.

"We used this star because we want to say to the Israeli Army: don`t make a new holocaust for us like that which happened to the Jews," he said.

With expectations of a confrontation higher than usual after last week`s violence, there was a large number of Israeli forces awaiting the marchers near the barrier, a report said.

As the protesters approached, some of them started cutting through the fence with wire cutters, prompting the army to fire foul-smelling water and tear gas at them, he said.

Medical sources said 10 women had to receive medical attention after they inhaled tear gas.

"This fence is illegal -- it`s supposed to be removed," protester Mohamad Khatib said.

"There is a High Court decision that the wall is illegal and these soldiers are coming here to kill people only for a piece of metal."

Arab Israeli MP Mohammed Barake, who also attended Friday`s demonstration, said Israel`s refusal to admit responsibility for Abu Rahma`s death was tantamount to killing her twice over.

"The Israeli occupation has killed Jawaher Abu Rahma twice -- once when they suppressed the demonstration in Bilin, and again when they claimed she was killed due to medical complications," he said.

The weekly demonstrations at Bilin, which have been held for several years, are billed as non-violent but frequently turn into clashes between rock-throwing youths and troops firing tear gas and rubber bullets.

Israel says the barrier -- a network of walls, fences and closed military roads -- is designed to prevent attacks. The Palestinians view it as an "apartheid wall" that carves off key parts of their future state.

Bureau Report