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Palestinians clash with IDF during ‘day of rage’ over US settlement change

Thousands attend rallies across West Bank protesting shift in longstanding American policy, death of cancer-stricken Fatah fighter in Israeli jail; 77 said lightly hurt

Palestinian protesters burn cardboard cutouts of US President Donald Trump, his State Secretary Mike Pompeo, and Prime Minister Benjamin Natanyahu, during a demonstration in the center of Nablus city in the West Bank on November 26, 2019. (Photo by Jaafar ASHTIYEH / AFP)
Palestinian protesters burn cardboard cutouts of US President Donald Trump, his State Secretary Mike Pompeo, and Prime Minister Benjamin Natanyahu, during a demonstration in the center of Nablus city in the West Bank on November 26, 2019. (Photo by Jaafar ASHTIYEH / AFP)

Thousands of Palestinians demonstrated across the West Bank on Tuesday to protest the recent US announcement that it no longer believes Israeli settlements in the West Bank violate international law. As the so-called “day of rage” continued, groups of protesters clashed with Israeli security forces in several flashpoints, with 77 reported lightly injured.

Around two thousand people gathered in the West Bank city of Ramallah. They set ablaze posters of US President Donald Trump as well as Israeli and American flags. Schools, universities and government offices were shuttered and rallies were held in city centers around the West Bank.

“The biased American policy toward Israel, and the American support of the Israeli settlements and the Israeli occupation, leaves us with only one option: To go back to resistance,” Mahmoud Aloul, an official with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah movement, told the crowd in Ramallah.

Demonstrators held signs reading: “Trump to impeachment, [Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu to jail, the occupation will go and we will remain on our land.”

At Israeli checkpoints near Ramallah, Bethlehem and Hebron, dozens of protesters threw stones at Israeli forces who responded with tear gas.

Dozens of protesters were lightly hurt, according to Palestinian rescue services.

According to the Ma’an news agency, the Palestinian Red Crescent said it dealt with 77 injuries, which included tear gas inhalation, rubber bullet wounds and burns.

The protests came just hours after the death from cancer of a Palestinian prisoner in Israeli custody. Organizers had also called for the demonstrations — first planned before his death — to call for the release of Sami Abu Diak, 35, who was involved in three deaths, to allow him to die at his family’s side. Israeli officials denied the request.

Organized by Fatah, Tuesday’s protests focused on the Trump administration’s announcement on Israeli settlements last week. The decision upended four decades of American policy and embraced the Israeli government’s longtime view that settlements are legal, a move the Palestinians view as coming at the expense of their quest for statehood.

Palestinian protesters burn an Israeli flag during a demonstration in the center of Nablus in the West Bank on November 26, 2019. (JAAFAR ASHTIYEH / AFP)

Israeli leaders welcomed the US decision, while the Palestinians and most of the world say the settlements undermine hopes for a two-state solution by gobbling up land sought by the Palestinians. Israel says the fate of the settlements should be determined in negotiations, even as it steadily expands them.

Israel captured the West Bank and East Jerusalem in the 1967 Six Day War and quickly began settling the newly conquered territory.

Today, some 700,000 Israelis live in the two areas, which are both claimed by the Palestinians for their state. Israel annexed East Jerusalem in 1980 in a move not recognized by the international community and considers the entirety of the city its capital.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had specifically announced that the US was repudiating the 1978 legal opinion by the Carter administration’s State Department that settlements were illegal, a view shared by most succeeding administrations.

IDF soldiers watch as a man wearing a cotton eyepatch and a piece of paper on his forehead reading in Arabic “we are all Amarneh and we are all one body” as he lifts up his hands in prayer, during a demonstration in the West Bank village of Surif on November 22, 2019, in solidarity with Palestinian cameraman Mu’ath Amarneh who was injured in the eye by a rubber bullet while covering previous clashes. (HAZEM BADER / AFP)

That opinion had been the basis for more than 40 years of carefully worded US opposition to settlement construction that had varied in its tone and strength, depending on the US president’s position. President Ronald Reagan, for instance, said settlements were not inherently illegal, though he called them unhelpful and provocative. Other administrations had called them “illegitimate” and “obstacles to peace.”

Abu Diak, the Palestinian prisoner, died in an Israeli hospital early Tuesday, according to Israel’s prisons service. In a statement, it said he was serving three life sentences for voluntary manslaughter and kidnapping of Palestinians accused of “collaborating” with Israel, among other charges.

He was linked to the armed wing of the Palestinian Fatah faction and was arrested in the early 2000s, during the second Palestinian intifada. He was allegedly involved in the killing of three Palestinians accused of collaborating with Israeli security forces.

A picture taken on November 19, 2019 shows a new housing construction site in the Israeli settlement of Elazar, near the Palestinian city of Bethlehem south of Jerusalem, in the West Bank. (MENAHEM KAHANA / AFP)

The Palestinian Authority had reached out to European countries and the Red Cross to apply pressure on Israel to release him.

Previous deaths of terminally ill Palestinian prisoners have sparked protests and accusations of medical negligence on the part of Israeli authorities.

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