Israel ends curfew on Palestinian town

NILIN, West Bank Tue Jul 8, 2008 11:00am BST

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NILIN, West Bank (Reuters) - The Israeli army on Tuesday lifted a blockade and curfew in the Palestinian town of Nilin, where violent protests had erupted against Israel's West Bank barrier.

Trucks unloaded goods and residents surveyed homes with broken windows and bullet marks after confrontations on Monday between stone-throwers and Israeli soldiers in which at least 10 Palestinians were hurt.

"(The curfew) was lifted early this morning," a military spokeswoman said. "The villagers promised not to protest and to keep the village quiet."

Israeli forces cordoned off Nilin on Friday and clamped a curfew on the town of 5,000 on Sunday following violence that erupted at a barrier construction site. Nilin, in the occupied West Bank, is about 20 kilometres (12 miles) east of Tel Aviv.

Nilin Mayor Ayman Nafi said residents discovered in the morning that soldiers had pulled out.

Estimating damages at around 300,000 shekels (45,639 pounds), he said an army bulldozer had dug up newly paved roads and wrecked part of the sewage system. An army spokesman said bulldozers had been in Nilin but denied they had damaged roads.

The military ended the curfew a day before the fourth anniversary of a ruling by the International Court of Justice in The Hague that termed illegal Israel's construction of the 720-km (430-mile) barrier in the occupied West Bank.

The United Nations says Israel has ignored that non-binding ruling.

Israel says the network of razor-wire fences and concrete barricades helps keep out Palestinian suicide bombers who killed nearly 300 Israelis in the three years between the start of an uprising in 2000 and the beginning of work on the project.

Palestinians say the barrier, which loops around Jewish settlements that dot the occupied territory, cutting off Palestinian villages from swathes of agricultural fields, is a land grab that could deny them a contiguous and viable state.

Palestinian protesters against the barrier had planned to hold a demonstration near Nilin on Wednesday "to break the siege" and commemorate the World Court decision.

Jamal Kanaan, a father of nine, said he had lost 63 acres (255 square meters) of farmland with 1,500 olive trees to the barrier.

"They want to force us to surrender, but we will keep resisting this wall because this is our life. We can't live while our land is being confiscated for the wall. This is the source of our income," he said.

The Israeli army said eight security personnel and two workers have been hurt in protests in the Nilin area over the past month.

(Additional reporting by Avida Landau in Jerusalem, Writing by Jeffrey Heller in Jerusalem, Editing by Myra MacDonald)

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