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Lawyer slams Israel 'cover-up' of tear gas death

JERUSALEM, Sunday 2 January 2011 (AFP) - The lawyer of the family of a Palestinian woman who died after being tear-gassed by Israeli troops at a West Bank protest accused the military on Sunday of a cover-up.

"Once again the army is covering up the actions of its men, instead of apologising and conducting a serious inquiry," Michael Sfar told Israel's army radio after the military announced an investigation into the death of Jawaher Abu Rahma.

The 36-year-old died in hospital in the occupied West Bank city of Ramallah after collapsing on Friday during a protest against the Israeli separation barrier in the nearby village of Bilin, hospital staff said.

Sfar accused the army of "using a massive amount of gas" during the protest.

The Israeli military said that an "investigation has been opened to determine the exact cause of death," and that it had "unsuccessfully contacted the Palestinian Authority to obtain a medical report."

On Friday, the military said it had used unspecified "means of dispersing demonstrations" against some 250 violent protesters taking part in a weekly rally against the fence near the West Bank village of Bilin.

Photos showed clouds of tear gas billowing around stone-throwing protesters.

Abu Rahma's death has been condemned as a "war crime" by the Palestinians.

"We condemn this abominable crime by the Israeli occupation army in Bilin against people taking part in a peaceful demonstration and consider it an Israeli war crime against our people," Palestinian chief negotiator Saeb Erakat told AFP on Saturday.

Nearly 200 demonstrators gathered in Tel Aviv on Saturday to protest against Abu Rahma's death. A dozen people were arrested, an AFP correspondent reported.

Israel says the projected 723 kilometres (454 miles) of steel and concrete walls, fences and barbed wire is needed for security. The Palestinians view it as a land grab that undermines their promised state.

The International Court of Justice (ICJ) issued a non-binding ruling in 2004 calling for parts of the barrier inside the West Bank to be torn down and for further construction in the territory to cease.

Israel has ignored the ruling.

MySinchew 2011.1.2


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