Undercover troops infiltrate, break up violent Ramallah protest
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Undercover troops infiltrate, break up violent Ramallah protest

Police officers blend into crowd before suddenly drawing pistols, firing shots in the air and arresting several rock throwers

Judah Ari Gross is The Times of Israel's military correspondent.

Undercover Israeli police officers infiltrated and broke up a violent Palestinian protest outside Ramallah on Wednesday, the army said.

Video footage from the scene shows the Israeli operatives with their faces covered with masks, keffiyehs and, in one case, a Palestinian flag, worn as a hood.

As hundreds of Palestinians threw rocks at Israeli troops near the military checkpoint outside the West Bank city, the undercover soldiers suddenly burst into action, arresting a number of protesters and firing shots into the air, which sent the rest of the demonstrators running.

An undercover Israeli policeman detains a Palestinian protestor during clashes in the West Bank city of Ramallah on December 13, 2017. (Abbas Momani/AFP)

“During [the protest] an undercover operation by the Israel Police’s Special Patrol Unit and Border Police took place, and three rioters were arrested and handed over for questioning,” the army said in a tweet.

A similar violent demonstration — without undercover agents — took place in Bethlehem. Smaller ones also took place in Nablus and Jericho, shutting down checkpoints and roadways, Israeli officials said.

AFP reporters on the scene in Ramallah said that one of the undercover officers — known in Hebrew as mista’arvim — also threw a smoke grenade.

Undercover Israeli policemen detain Palestinian protestors during clashes in the West Bank city of Ramallah on December 13, 2017. (Abbas Momani/AFP)

Soldiers then rushed into the area as the undercover soldiers led the Palestinians they detained into army vehicles.

Footage from the scene was captured by journalists who were reporting on the protest and by the Israel Defense Forces itself.

Medics on the scene said three Palestinians were injured during the Ramallah protest.

Riots also took place on Wednesday morning, along the security fence surrounding the Gaza Strip. Protesters rolled burning tires and threw rocks at Israeli forces and the barrier itself. During these demonstrations, soldiers called for “main instigators” to halt and fired warning shots in the air. When the protesters continued to approach the fence, the troops fired at them, hitting several, an army spokesperson said.

In southern Gaza, outside the city of Khan Younis, a group of Palestinian teenage protesters filmed themselves crossing the security fence into Israel before they were quickly turned back by IDF troops.

A Palestinian protestor throws a rock at Israeli troops during a clash in the West Bank city of Ramallah on December 13, 2017. (Abbas Momani/AFP)

Wednesday’s protests were the latest in a series of daily demonstrations by Palestinians in the West Bank following Trump’s recognition last week of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. Palestinians say they want East Jerusalem as the capital of a future Palestinian state, while Israel claims the unified city as its indivisible capital.

In his address last Wednesday from the White House, Trump defied worldwide warnings and insisted that after repeated failures to achieve peace, a new approach was long overdue. He described his decision to recognize Jerusalem as the seat of Israel’s government as merely based on reality.

The move was hailed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and by leaders across much of the Israeli political spectrum. Trump stressed that he was not specifying the boundaries of Israeli sovereignty in the city, and called for no change in the status quo at the city’s holy sites. The final status of Jerusalem is a key issue in peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians.

In response, the Fatah group of Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas and the Hamas terror group that rules the Gaza Strip called for “days of rage.”

On Sunday, an Israeli security guard was seriously wounded when a Palestinian terrorist stabbed him in the chest at the entrance to Jerusalem’s Central Bus Station. The assailant later said he carried out his attack as a result of Trump’s announcement.

Two Palestinian protesters were killed by Israeli forces during a violent riot along the Gaza border last Friday. Hamas, which rules Gaza, has urged a new intifada uprising against Israel and vowed to liberate Jerusalem.

Agencies contributed to this report.

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