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Monday, 19 March, 2001, 20:18 GMT
Grenades fired at Palestinian women
Palestinian women demonstrators
Tear gas and stun grenades were used to disperse the women
Israeli soldiers have fired teargas and stun grenades at about 600 Palestinian women staging a protest against Israel's closure of the West Bank.

Several were injured including the prominent Palestinian politician Hanan Ashrawi.

They attacked us violently, then they say stop the violence

Hanan Ashrawi
The incident occurred as the demonstrators marched towards al-Ram military checkpoint near Ramallah, heading towards Jerusalem.

After trying to hold back the women by forming a human wall, the soldiers fired tear gas and stun grenades, which emit a loud noise, but no shrapnel.

"They attacked us violently. We are unarmed, then they come and say stop the violence," Mrs Ashrawi told Reuters.

Hanan Ashrawi argues with Israeli troops at al-Ram checkpoint
Mrs Ashrawi harangued the soldiers as the crowd left
She was wounded in the leg and treated at the scene by bodyguards.

Mrs Ashrawi, who served in the past as Minister of Higher Education in the Palestinian Authority, is one of the best known spokespeople for the Palestinians.

She participated in the 1991 Madrid peace talks between the Arabs and Israel.

An Israeli army spokesman said that non-lethal means were used to disperse the crowd at some point during the demonstration, but said that overall "it was a quiet march...and we are checking how (Mrs Ashrawi) was hurt."

Continuing blockade

Hundreds of Palestinian women carrying Palestinian flags and banners participated in the protest against Israeli occupation and military blockades in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Palestinian women demonstrators
Several women were injured

Israel imposed the closure in an attempt to halt the Palestinian intifada which has been raging since September.

At least 347 Palestinians, 66 Israelis and 13 Israeli Arabs have been killed since the start of the violence.

Bowing to international pressure, Israel has eased some of the restrictions on Palestinian travel inside the West Bank and Gaza but Palestinians say that the changes were cosmetic only.

On Wednesday, another women's march is planned in Ramallah to honour Palestinians killed since the intifada began, the organisers said.

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See also:

14 Mar 01 | Middle East
Gaza's lost generation
15 Mar 01 | Middle East
Sharon signal to ease blockades
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