Pacifists are the new targets for Israeli troops
QALQILYA, West Bank (AFP) - More than a thousand Palestinians were joined by foreign peace activists in a demonstration in this West Bank town against Israel's separation barrier, a day after troops fired on a similar protest with live bullets.
The protestors brandished banners urging an end to construction of the " Apartheid Wall". The barrier mainly consists of barbed wire fencing but takes the form of a concrete wall around Qalqilya.
The army fired teargas and rubber-coated bullets to disperse the crowd after they had been the target of stone-throwing, according to an AFP photographer at the scene. Two protestors were slightly injured. In the West Bank town of Bethlehem, around 50 foreign activists also staged a protest against the barrier.
An Israeli pacifist and an American woman were wounded by Israeli gunfire on Friday during another protest against the barrier involving some 400 Palestinians and 150 foreign activists in a village southeast of Qalqiliya.
Israeli troops threw teargas and then opened fire at the crowd which was tearing down a metal gate built into the barrier.
Military sources confirmed LIVE BULLETS WERE USED AGAINST THE PROTESTORS and that two of them were wounded as a result.
They said the troops fired warning shots to disperse the crowd and then fired at protestors' legs, according to rules of engagement, to stop them from making a hole in the gate.
It was the first time since the start of the intifada more than three years ago that an Israeli had been wounded by live fire during the course of a protest.
Labour opposition leader and former premier Shimon Peres has called for an inquiry into Friday's incident, to determine why live rounds were fired.
Despite an international chorus of criticism against the barrier, which the US administration calls a "problem" as it juts deep inside the West Bank, Israel says it is needed to prevent Palestinian assailants from infiltrating its territory.
Palestinians say the barrier, which is slated for completion in 2005, is little more than an attempt to pre-empt the borders of a future two-state settlement.