Hundreds of Palestinian protesters clashed with Israeli troops across the West Bank on Monday in violent demonstrations in support of hunger-striking security prisoners.
The protests coincided with the arrival of US President Donald Trump in Israel. He will meet with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas on Tuesday.
But Palestinians have taken part in demonstrations on an almost daily basis in the West Bank and Gaza Strip in solidarity with the more than 1,000 Palestinian security prisoners refusing food in Israeli prisons, who have reached the 36th day of their hunger strike.
According to the Palestinian Red Crescent Society, approximately 100 Palestinians were injured during the clashes, to varying degrees. A small number were said injured by live fire, eight from burns and scrapes, 20 by rubber bullets and dozens from tear gas inhalation.
According to a Red Crescent spokesperson, none of the injured were in serious condition.
One of the larger protests on Monday took place in Qalandiya, north of Jerusalem, where approximately 100 Palestinians took part in the violent demonstration, throwing rocks and rolling burning tires at IDF troops, the army said.
According to the Red Crescent, two people were wounded by live rounds in Qalandiya. But an army spokesperson said that only tear gas and rubber bullets were used in order to disperse the riot.
In the town of Nabi Saleh, north of Ramallah, some 60 Palestinians clashed with Israeli troops, also with burning tires and rocks, the IDF said.
The Palestinian ambulance service said that a third Palestinian was hit by live gunfire during the protest. The IDF acknowledged that in addition to tear gas and rubber bullets, soldiers also used live 0.22 Ruger rounds, a lower-caliber bullet that is believed to be less lethal than conventional ammunition.
Smaller protests involving dozens of Palestinians also reportedly took place in Hebron and the surrounding villages, in Azzun and Dayr Sharaf in the northern West Bank and Abu Dis, outside Jerusalem.
The army has been on high alert due to both the recent daily demonstrations in the West Bank and Trump’s visit, outgoing IDF Spokesperson Moti Almoz told Army Radio on Monday.
“[Trump’s trip] forces all the security forces to take into account various, potential scenarios of what could happen,” he said. “We need to be prepared so this event appears to be under control.”
Some 11,000 police and security forces are taking part in the operation to secure Trump’s visit. On Tuesday, he is slated to travel to the West Bank city of Bethlehem.
In addition to protests in Abu Dis, a Palestinian man allegedly attacked two Border Police officers at a guard post there. The troops opened fire on the attacker, killing him, police said.
In violent protetests over the past few weeks, two Palestinians were killed and dozens of others wounded in clashes between rioters and Israeli security forces or civilians.
Also on Monday, Palestinians observed a general work strike in solidarity with the security prisoners.
The strike paralyzed East Jerusalem as well as West Bank cities and suburbs, with shops closed and both public and private sector employees refusing to work, AFP correspondents said.
The industrial action came in response to a call from the Palestinian striking prisoners’ support committee, a grassroots group.
The committee appealed for protests against Israeli military forces in the West Bank in support of the prisoners, who are behind bars for security offenses, including carrying out terror attacks, against Israel and its citizens.
Hamas and other Palestinian factions also issued an ultimatum to Israel this week that if the prisoners’ demands for improved conditions are not met by Saturday then another 800 prisoners will join those who are already fasting.
Palestinian police forces were deployed at contact points in the city of Al-Bireh close to the Beit El settlements, an AFP correspondent said.
Israel announced a series of measures to support the Palestinian economy and ease transportation woes ahead of Trump’s visit, which were welcomed by the US administration as “encouraging.”
Palestinians say some 1,600 inmates have kept up the fast since mid-April, but Israel says the number has dropped to around 850. About 20 inmates were transferred to a medical wing over their deteriorating conditions Sunday, according to Channel 2 news.
Some strikers, who have been subsisting on salt water, have begun refusing to drink that as well in recent days, according to supporters.
The prisoners, jailed for offenses linked to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, seek better conditions, including 20 TV channels, unrestricted books and magazines, air conditioning, a greater selection of items available for purchase in the canteen, family visits, the restarting of open university studies, public telephone use, and annual medical checks for prisoners.
Israel says prisoners’ conditions meet all international standards. Reported efforts to negotiate an end to the strike have failed thus far.
The hunger strike was being led by Marwan Barghouti — a widely supported Palestinian politician who is serving five life terms for orchestrating deadly terror attacks during the Second Intifada.
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