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Activists: Palestinian protester dies after hit by gas canister in demonstration
JERUSALEM (AP) ' A Palestinian protester hit in the face by a projectile fired by Israeli forces died of his wounds Saturday, said an activist and a member of his family.
Witnesses say he was hurling rocks at a military vehicle when he was struck in the head by a tear gas canister during a West Bank demonstration on Friday.
The Israeli army's use of these canisters has come under sharp criticism in the past few years.
Mustafa Tamimi died at Beilinson Hospital in central Israel, said Israeli pro-Palestinian activist Jonathan Pollak. His relative, Mahmoud Tamimi also confirmed his death.
Tamimi is the 20th person to be killed over the past eight years at demonstrations throughout the West Bank, said Sarit Michaeli of the Israeli rights group Btselem.
An Israeli military spokeswoman said they were investigating the incident. She said she did not have any details on how Tamimi was initially wounded.
Photographs taken by pro-Palestinian Israeli activist Haim Schwarczenberg show Tamimi rushing after an armored military vehicle in the West Bank village of Nabi Saleh. The photographer says he was throwing rocks.
He then appears to be hit in the face by an object fired from the back of the vehicle at a distance of a few yards (meters). His friends rush to the scene, covering his face with a black-and-white Palestinian checkered scarf.
"As he was throwing stones, a soldier opened the door of the back of the jeep. A soldier took his gun out and shot him directly," Schwarczenberg said.
Tamimi's supporters accused soldiers of using excessive force to deal with the protester.
"The question is not whether the person is throwing stones or not throwing stones, the question is whether the army is allowed to use deadly force from within an armored vehicle," said activist Pollak. "This violates the army's own regulations."
The canisters, which emit acrid smoke, are meant to push back crowds. But some Israeli troops have fired them directly at demonstrators, causing severe injuries and death.
Israeli military officials say they fire the canisters according to army regulations.
The casualties include Palestinian Bassem Abu Rahmeh, who was killed when a tear gas canister fired by troops in 2009 hit his chest.
They also include Tristan Anderson of Oakland, Calif., who is suffering from brain damage, paralysis and seizures after he was hit in the head with a canister at a 2009 demonstration.
The West Bank sees weekly demonstrations against Jewish settlement activity and the building of Israel's separation barrier, which has swallowed Palestinian farmland in its route.
Typically Palestinian youths hurl rocks, and Israeli forces fire tear gas, rubber bullets and other projectiles to repel the crowds.