Resident of the Palestinian West Bank village of Bilin celebrated Friday to mark the dismantlement of Israel's security fence in the area.
The IDF began work to dismantle the fence last week, in line with a High Court ruling on the matter.
Friday, the local residents prayed land in the area located west of the fence. Mohammad Khatib, a member of the Bilin Popular Committee, told Ynet that hundreds of people joined the party.
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"Even though work to dismantle the fence is underway, the army blocked the gate to prevent people from going through it, but we brought a tractor that cleared the road and let people through," he said.
Fence taken apart (Photo: Ehud Tzoigenberg)
The Palestinians brought construction materials to the land west of the dismantled fence and embarked on symbolic construction at the site. They said they plan to build several buildings in the area, in the framework of efforts to expand their village.
"We know we have no construction permits, but this is our land and any demolition will have to face a legal battle," Khatib said.
'We're not seeking violence'Passersby who took part in the construction said that while soldiers were standing nearby, this was the first time in a while where no clashes were reported between Palestinians and IDF troops.
"People were overjoyed and dancing. Some of them attempted to move towards the soldiers, but we prevented them from doing so because we didn't want a clash," Khatib said. "We're not seeking violence; we merely wish to reach our land."
Despite the optimism, members of the Bilin Popular Committee insist that future protests at the site are possible.
"We're not seeking a clash, yet if the army arrives and tries to raze our buildings, the situation may revert to what it was before and the clashes and protests will resume," Khatib said.
In the framework of the celebrations, village residents are planning to hold the wedding celebration of a local couple next Friday on land that up until recently was beyond the security fence.
Elior Levy is Ynet's Palestinian Affairs Correspondent
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