Israel settlers march to protest UN bid

12:00 Sep 13 2011 Asira al-Qibliya

BEIT EL (AFP) -- A few hundred Israeli settlers were on Tuesday marching through the northern West Bank to protest against Palestinian plans to seek full membership of the United Nations.

One group of several dozen people marched from Beit El settlement near the city of Ramallah towards a military base, waving Israeli flags and singing, while around 150 people joined a march from the Itamar settlement to a nearby military outpost south of Nablus.

The Itamar marchers were escorted by a heavy military presence.

"This is our land, and there will never be a Palestinian state on the homeland of the Jewish people," said Michael Ben Ari, the ultra-nationalist member of parliament who led the Beit El march.

Earlier on Tuesday, a group of about 100 settlers entered the Palestinian village of Asira al-Qibiliya near Nablus and began attacking residents, witnesses said.

A correspondent said stones were being thrown by both sides and that some of the settlers were armed and had fired their weapons.

Shortly afterward, Israeli troops and border police arrived and fired rubber bullets and tear gas to try and control the situation, the correspondent said.

Several villagers were injured including a Palestinian journalist, Ayman Noubany, who was beaten by settlers. He was taken to Rafedia Hospital in Nablus, Palestinian Red Crescent medics said.

Medics also said a 14-year-old boy, Aref Aref, was taken to hospital after being hit by a tear-gas canister, with the account corroborated by a watchdog group which is monitoring settler attacks as part of a new campaign.

The marches came as the Palestinians prepare to formally ask the United Nations on Friday to admit a Palestinian state as a member of the world body.

The move is fiercely opposed by Israel, and particularly by the settler movement which has vowed to stop a Palestinian state becoming a reality on the ground.

Earlier this month, right-wing parliamentarians and radical settler activists met to mull a plan of action for September, promising to stage mass demonstrations and rallies against the Palestinian bid.

None have so far materialized.

The Palestinians are planning a series of rallies and marches across the West Bank to support their bid, which they say will be entirely peaceful and will stick within areas under their control.
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