Violence between Palestinians and Israeli soldiers flared in the West Bank Monday, injuring one soldier and a Palestinian man, and damaging local property.
Tensions have been running high in Hebron ahead of the 19th anniversary next Monday of the so-called Goldstein massacre, in which 29 Muslim worshipers were killed and 125 were injured by Israeli gunman Baruch Goldstein during a mosque prayer service at the Cave of the Patriarchs.
The IDF soldier was hit in the face by a marble fired from a slingshot north of Hebron. He was rushed to the Hadassah Ein Kerem Hospital in Jerusalem. The Palestinian man was reportedly hurt in the leg when soldiers returned fire.
This Friday, a mass demonstration known as Open Shuhada Street, to which almost 900 Facebook activists have confirmed attendance, is set to kick off a series of events to raise awareness about Hebron. The annual rally, which has turned violent in recent years, aims to reopen the city’s central market street, Shuhada, which has largely been shut down and blocked off by security forces since the massacre. Under interim Israeli-Palestinian agreements implemented in 1997, Israel pulled out of 80% of Hebron (where some 120,000 Palestinians live), retaining control of the remaining 20% (where some 30,000 Palestinians live), which is home to several Jewish settler enclaves with a population of some 700.
Throngs of activists also marched in Ramallah Monday to demand that Israel free Palestinians held in administrative detention, notably Samer Issawi, who was released as part of the first phase of the Gilad Shalit prisoner exchange in October 2011, but was then rearrested in July 2012. Issawi is said to be close to death in what has been the longest hunger strike (some 200 days) waged by a Palestinian detainee — outlasting Khader Adnan, who refused food and water for over 66 days last year, sparking the hunger protest movement.
Issawi, who is reportedly suffering from numbness and cramps and weighs 47 kilograms (104 lbs), was told by a doctor that his heart could stop at any time if he refuses water, the Palestinian news agency Ma’an reported. He is being kept alive by an intravenous tube, activists familiar with his condition told The Times of Israel.
Last Friday, some 1,000 protesters who gathered outside Ofer Prison, north of Jerusalem, where Issawi is being held, kicked off a string of solidarity rallies and clashed with the IDF in a fierce, large-scale demonstration. Two soldiers were injured and approximately 200 Palestinians were injured, and dozens were treated for teargas inhalation.
Elsewhere around the West Bank Monday, pro-Palestinian activists threw stones at cars on Route 446 that damaged several vehicles. No one was injured. A Jewish-owned vineyard near an outpost in the West Bank was vandalized, as were some 20 of the nearby Palestinian villagers’ olive trees in Mugheir, the Hebrew daily Haaretz reported.
Meanwhile, in a separate incident Monday, two Palestinians were subdued and taken in for questioning at Tel Aviv’s Central Bus Station after they refused to open their bags for a search by a security guard at the entrance to the terminal, leading to suspicions that they may have been carrying a bomb. Sappers and police were called to the scene, but it was determined that there were no explosives in their belongings, and the bus station resumed normal activity. Police and the Shin Bet security service were looking into the incident.