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Israeli forces launch violent crackdown on protesters in Beita

More than 40 Palestinians have been injured by Israeli forces, with a number being transferred to hospital for treatment
Beita has been a focal point of tension since last month as locals protest against a settler outpost (MEE/Shady Jarara)
By Shatha Hammad in Beita, occupied West Bank

Israeli forces launched a violent crackdown on Palestinian protesters in the village of Beita in the occupied West Bank on Friday, injuring dozens of people.

Large numbers of armed Israeli police descended on the village, which sits south of Nablus, where they used tear gas and rubber-coated steel bullets to disperse the large gatherings of protesters. 

The demonstrations broke out after calls for the rejection of a settler outpost in Mount Sabih, or Jabal Sabih in Arabic, as well as the construction of settler expansion projects in the outskirts of the town.

Further confrontations also broke out at the main entrance of Beita, where locals protested against the Israeli army's closure of the entrance using large cement blocks to restrict the movement of people. 

According to the Palestinian Red Crescent, emergency services dealt with 47 injuries caused as a result of the violent confrontations, with three people being transferred to hospital.

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Five of those injured in the crackdown were shot with rubber-coated steel bullets, and two people sustained fractures. 

A number of journalists covering the tensions were also injured, with some suffering from breathing difficulties as a result of tear gas. 

Nasser Ashtayyeh, a photojournalist covering the events, told Middle East Eye that he was attacked with pepper spray. Rabie al-Munir, a television cameraman, said he was beaten by the butt of a rifle. 

'Collective punishment'

Fouad Ma'ali, a local resident, told MEE that Israel's closure of the entrance to the town amounts to the "collective punishment" of Palestinians. 

"The Israeli army's decision to close the entrance to the town for around a week is collective punishment on all the residents who refuse for settlers to take over the land."

According to Ma'ali, the Israeli army also closed an additional four entrances leading to the town in anticipation of further protests. 

Protesters carried out Friday congregational prayers near the main entrance to the town, however, worshippers were quickly suppressed with tear gas as soon as prayers ended, leaving people gasping for air. 

israeli forces dispersed worshippers with tear gas after they finished congregational prayers (MEE/Shady Jarara)

A large fire also broke out at the Beita vegetable market warehouse amidst the ongoing tensions, after it was targeted by the Israeli army. 

Local workers in the area told Middle East Eye that the fire caused losses worth thousands of shekels. 

Ongoing protests and resistance 

In early May, a group of Israeli settlers set up caravans in Jabal Sabih, and with the help of Israeli forces have since prevented any Palestinian access to the area, which is home to vast olive groves belonging to Beita's residents.

Since then, residents have spent every day protesting against the new settler outpost which lies on the southern outskirts of the village and comprises an estimated 30 percent of Beita's entire land area.

The area has continued to be a focal point of tensions as Palestinians resist the growing number of settlement projects in the area. 

On Thursday, Palestinian teenager Ahmed Shamsa succumbed to his wounds after he was shot in the head by Israeli forces during protests. 

Earlier this week, 15-year-old Palestinian student Mohammed Hamayel was also shot and killed by Israeli forces in Beita during protests.

Hamayel was the fourth Palestinian to be killed by Israeli soldiers during ongoing protests in Beita over the past two months.

Hamayel's cousin, 36-year-old Mohammed, told MEE that at least seven other protesters were also shot and wounded with live fire at the protests while dozens of others were injured. 

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