Jerusalem (AsiaNews) - The former Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, Michel Sabbah, was among those who yesterday, after Mass in Beit Jala demonstrated against the construction of the wall that separates Jerusalem from the occupied Palestinian territories.
The event had gathered hundreds of people, Palestinian representatives, religious leaders and Christian faithful who, at the end of the Mass marched on the site where the Israeli army bulldozer uprooted several ancient olive trees to make way for a new section of the wall that divides Jerusalem from the Occupied Territories. Work on the section began two weeks ago.
Speaking to the crowd, Michel Sabbah said: "This land belongs to us ... Whatever you do, no matter what your courts say, this land belongs to us and will return to us one day." Then turning to the Israeli soldiers, he added: "You are stronger with your guns, but you are not the strongest when it comes to humanity."
With the rise of tension, Israeli forces launched tear gas grenades at the demonstrators; two of them threw stones at the soldiers and were arrested.
Last April, the Supreme Court had stopped the construction of the wall in Beit Jala, but on July 6 it reversed its decision.
Israel justifies the construction of the wall - began in 2002, at the height of the Second Intifada - as a protective barrier against terrorism. But the wall for the city of Bethlehem has become a vice that is destroying its economy. Communications between Jerusalem and the rest of the Palestinian territories has become complicated and requires many hours to the inhabitants can move from side to side to visit relatives, work, undergo medical examinations.
Along the wall, which effectively separates Jerusalem - the future capital of the Palestinian state - from the rest of the land of Palestine, there is now a whole series of Israeli settlements, considered illegal under international law.
Protesters fear that with the construction of the new section of the wall, the two illegal Jewish settlements of Gilo and Har Gilo near Beit Jala, will be expanded.