January 1, 2011 - 1:00am

A senior Palestinian medical official said a woman died on Saturday after being treated for inhaling gas fired by Israeli forces quelling a protest a day earlier in the occupied West Bank.

Jawaher Abu Rahme, 35, was the second member of her family said to have died in one of the weekly protests held in the village of Bilin against an Israeli barrier built across the West Bank.

A brother, in his 20s, was killed in 2009 after a tear gas cannister struck him in the chest.

The precise reason for Abu Rahme's death was unclear, including what type of gas she may have inhaled.

Mohammad Eidi, head of emergency at Ramallah Hospital, told Reuters Abu Rahme had arrived there on Friday "with very weak breathing as a result of inhaling a gas. The type of gas is still not identified. We put her on respiratory system. But she died this morning."

The Israeli military said: "the exact circumstances of the woman's death are currently under investigation".

Israel Radio, quoting Palestinian sources, said Israeli troops had fired an unusual amount of tear gas at dozens of demonstrators during a weekly protest against the barrier Palestinians in Bilin say cuts them off from some of their land.

The Israeli report, quoting an unidentified military source, said Abu Rahme had been treated in hospital after suffering a light injury and sent home on Friday. Eidi, asked about the report, denied she had been released from hospital.

Israel started building the barrier of wire fences and cement walls in the West Bank nearly a decade ago, calling it a security measure to prevent suicide bombers reaching its cities.

Violence in the West Bank has largely tapered off in the past few years as a result of security measures by Israel and a bolstered Palestinian police force supervised by Western-backed Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas's government.

But conflict has been on the rise along Israel's border with Hamas-ruled Gaza, where militants have been firing rockets at Israeli towns and Israel has responded with deadly air strikes.

U.S.-brokered peace talks between the Palestinians and Israel collapsed late last year in a dispute over Jewish settlement building in land Palestinians seek for a state. Abbas urged Western leaders in a speech on Friday to come up with a new peace plan in hopes the diplomacy may be revived.

(Reporting by Ali Sawafta and Mohammed Assadi) (Writing by Allyn Fisher-Ilan; editing by Ralph Boulton) (; +972-2-6322202; Reuters


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