January 2, 2011 - 1:00am

Hundreds gathered in front of the Israeli Defense Ministry in Tel Aviv on Saturday night to protest the death of a Palestinian woman who died the day before during a demonstration against a security barrier in the West Bank village of Bil'in.

Several protesters in Tel Aviv were detained by police, among them a former Israeli lawmaker, when the rally got out of hand. The Israeli police claimed that Moussy Raz, a former member of the left-wing Meretz party, was arrested after striking a police officer, the local media reported.

Bil'in resident Jawaher Abu Rahma, 35, died from inhalation of tear gas fired by Israel troops to disperse the mass rally against the barrier. The woman was the second in her family to have died during a protest against the security barrier. Her brother, Bassem, was killed in the same spot in April 2009 after being hit in the chest by a tear gas canister fired by Israel Defense Forces (IDF) troops.

The mother of the slain woman, Sulhia Abu Rahma, said she seeks no revenge of her daughter's death and conveyed a message of peace to Israelis. "I brought my children to the world with love and I educated them to believe in peace. Out of six children, I have four left," she told local news service Ynet.

"We want to live and not to die. We want to live alongside Israel, but in dignity," said the Abu Rahma, who claimed she is a strong believer in Israeli-Palestinian co-existence.

Following the incident, the IDF claimed that it made no irregular use of tear gas to disperse the demonstration at Bil'in after its troops were attacked by violent protesters.

"During a violent and illegal disturbance held near the village of Bil'in, a Palestinian woman was reportedly hurt after inhaling gas. She was evacuated by the Red Crescent to a hospital in Ramallah. According to initial reports received from the Palestinians, she was later discharged to her home," said an official statement issued by the IDF spokesperson.

The statement noted that the Palestinians "later changed their version, claiming that she died at the hospital. Our request from the Palestinians to review the medical report has not yet been answered."

The Palestinian National Authority on Saturday turned down an offer by the IDF to jointly investigate the circumstances of Abu Rahma's death, according to a report by The Jerusalem Post on Sunday.

"This raises suspicions about what really happened," the report quoted an army source as saying.

The Israeli left-wing organization Peace Now has called on Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak to order the establishment of an inquiry commission to probe the conduct of the troops during the demonstration.

According to a Peace Now activist, 21 people have been killed in similar protests across the West Bank since 2004 from tear gas inhalation or live ammunition. The most violent demonstrations occur at Bil'in, where they have been hold by Palestinians every Friday for the past six years to protest the security barrier which cuts its farming land.


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