Anti-Israel protests in Hebron quickly turned into violent riots on Thursday, as tempers flared a day after the killing of a Palestinian teen who assaulted border police with a fake gun.
Hundreds of Palestinians threw rocks at the Israeli guard post where the teenager, Mohammed Salayme, who accosted an officer at the inspection point with a pistol, was shot by a second police officer. Later, the gun turned out to have been a fake.
Some 40 protesters were reported injured, many from inhaling teargas. Next to the Cave of the Patriarchs, rioters hurled a firebomb at Israeli soldiers. There were no injuries. Palestinian police were attempting to prevent the protesters from attacking IDF troops.
Violence was also reported an other spots across the West Bank, amid Israeli fears that the protests could escalate into a third intifada-style uprising. In the northern West Bank, an Israeli was lightly injured when rocks were thrown at his car near the settlement of Ma’aleh Shomron. Shots were also reportedly fired at a car near the Palestinian village of Nabi Saleh, a frequent flashpoint.
Military officials said Wednesday there had been an uptick in Palestinian violence since Israel’s Gaza offensive in November, but it was under control.
The protests in Hebron escalated after the midday funeral of the youth. Some 5,000 people the funeral procession, praising God and vowing revenge. “Our blood will redeem the martyr,” the crowd chanted, and many stayed in the streets after the body was buried, waving green Hamas flags and chanting anti-Israel slogans in the streets.
Salayme’s body was wrapped in a green Hamas shroud as it was carried on a stretcher through the streets. Dozens of people held green Hamas flags aloft during the procession. Salayme’s family is known to support Hamas, and his brother was released last year in a prisoner swap between Hamas and Israel that freed an Israeli soldier held for five years in Gaza.
Hebron Governor Khamel Hamid claimed that Israeli soldiers had been ordered to kill Palestinians in order to restore their army’s lost deterrent capability.
The troops were “purposely hurting innocent civilians,” Hamid told the Voice of Palestine radio station, charging that Israel was “glorifying a soldier who shot a teen.”
The youth was merely on his way to the market to buy candy when he was shot by the border police, Hamid said.
Pictures of the female border police officer who shot Salayme were being circulated on Facebook by pro-Palestinian groups, often with calls for revenge against her. One page demanded she be brought “to trial before international courts.”
In Israel, the identity of the woman is protected by gag order, and pictures of her published in the media have all been pixelated.
After the event, the officer said she had acted correctly and in full compliance with the army’s rules of engagement. Anyone in her position, she said, “would have done the same.”
In Nablus, meanwhile, tens of thousands of people gathered to rally in support of terror group Hamas, which is marking its 25th anniversary. The rally was the first in five years for the group, which had generally been regarded as a fifth column in the territory.