Bethlehem protest quickly turns violent

Protesters hurl rocks and in some cases Molotov cocktails at two IDF concrete guard towers.

March 30, 2012 18:54
2 minute read.
Protesters sitting near Bethlehem on Land Day

Palestinian protesters sittingnear Bethlehem on Land Day 370. (photo credit: TOVAH LAZAROFF)

The Global March to Jerusalem turned violent in Bethlehem on Friday afternoon as protesters hurled rocks and in some cases Molotov cocktails at two IDF concrete guard towers.

Palestinian sources said that one protester was injured in the head by a tear-gas canister and that dozens of others were treated for teargas inhalation.

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According to the IDF, on the other side of the gate, vehicles were damaged when rocks and concrete blocks were hurled over the wall.

The march began peacefully on a small road that led to a checkpoint near Rachel’s Tomb by a road out of the city.

There an open steel gate, flanked by a IDF guard tower, marks a break in the security barrier’s large concrete boulders.

Even as marchers held flags and chanted slogans such as “to Jerusalem we march with millions,” the barrier’s large steel gate was open.

A few tourist buses drove by the marchers and headed out of the city.

Two blocks from the checkpoint, Palestinian police in riot gear stood across the road shoulder to shoulder and blocked the marchers’ path.

The marchers paused next to the police. Some sat on the road and listened to a speaker. Afterward, the men prayed, bowing at the end.

Marchers then tried to push their way past the police line, but the officers held them back.

After a few minutes, the protesters were able to break through the line, and head to the gate.

Almost immediately, young protesters hurled rocks at the gate and the nearby IDF guard tower.

They also lit a fire in a wheeled trash bin and pushed it toward the gate.

A few threw lit flags at the gate, and one such flag or a Molotov cocktail, hit the window of the IDF guard tower, where it ignited a small fire on the outside of the structure. It died out after a few moments.

The IDF posted on YouTube a video of the fire and the scene in general as it looked from their vantage point.

Onlookers stood by the sidelines taking photographs and in some cases filming.

At one point, a protester with a Palestinian flag scaled the wall and plated it on top, to the cheers of the protesters below.

The IDF eventually dispersed the protesters with a barrage of tear gas.

Once the final smoke had clear, the street stood empty, strewn with rocks and water bottles.

The burned-out trashcan was still by the gate. The word “Love” stood out from the graffiti that was next to it.

Down the road, a small band of protesters continued to hurl rocks at another IDF guard tower for over an hour.

By this point, most of those that had attended the rally had left. The street was so quiet that one could hear the stones clank as they hit the guard tower.

As the afternoon wore on, that sound was interspersed with the call to prayer from a local mosque. Occasionally, the IDF shot tear gas at the protesters.

Further down the road, the Palestinian police, some in riot gear, stood idly by.

At one point, Palestinian protesters lit a fire by the guard tower.

Watching the smoke billow out over the road, a Palestinian medic said, “That is the fire of occupation.”

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