Palestinian youths breach section of Israel's barrier


NILIN – Masked Palestinian youths breached a six-metre (20ft) section of Israel’s security wall in the occupied West Bank yesterday in a protest marking the fall of the Berlin Wall 20 years ago this month.

While Israeli border guards fired tear gas and a foul-smelling spray from behind the concrete barrier, protesters levered open a space under one the pre-cast panels and used a hydraulic car-jack to topple it out of position.

“No matter how tall, all walls fall,” read one banner pasted on to the structure by Palestinian youths, helped by Israeli activists, who say the wall on Palestinian land and through Palestinian communities is a land grab by Israel.

The panel, cast in the same inverted T-shape as those erected by communist East Germany across Berlin in 1961, was tilted back close to tipping point on the Israeli side, but it did not fall completely.

The youths scattered when Israeli guards behind the wall rushed to close the breach. Black smoke from a stack of tyres set alight by the youths mingled with white trails of tear gas against the blue sky. Clouds of Israeli “skunk” spray, which smells of rotting flesh and faeces, drenched the protesters’ side during the skirmish.

Israel began building its barrier of fences and walls at the height of the Palestinian uprising that began in 2000. It now runs along most of the West Bank border, encroaching at many points on to West Bank territory.

Israel says it was built to prevent suicide bombers from entering Israel, and that it has largely succeeded in doing so.

Violent protests over its construction have become a regular Friday event at locations such as Nilin, at which Israeli police fire gas and rubber bullets at stone-throwing Palestinians.

In a non-binding decision in 2004, the International Court of Justice said the barrier was illegal and should be taken down because it crossed occupied territory.

Israeli leaders say the barrier is a temporary obstacle that could be removed once a peace agreement with the Palestinians is signed. – (Reuters)