2 Israeli journalists attacked in violent ‘Nakba’ clashes

150 Palestinians hurl stones, burning tires at Israeli forces north of Jerusalem after funerals of two teens killed Thursday

Palestinians mourn the deaths of two Palestinian teens, shot by the IDF, at their joint funeral in the West Bank town of Birzeit, north of Ramallah, on May 16, 2014. (photo credit: Issam Rimawi/Flash90)
Palestinians mourn the deaths of two Palestinian teens, shot by the IDF, at their joint funeral in the West Bank town of Birzeit, north of Ramallah, on May 16, 2014. (photo credit: Issam Rimawi/Flash90)

Violent protests erupted in several locations throughout the West Bank on Friday, after the joint funeral of two Palestinian youngsters who were shot dead by the IDF during Nakba Day demonstrations on Thursday.

In Beitunia, 14 kilometers (9 miles) north of Jerusalem, some 150 Palestinian protesters hurled stones and burning tires at Israeli security forces.

One demonstrator was lightly injured by a rubber bullet, according to Israeli media reports. There were no Israeli injuries reported.

Two Israeli journalists covering the events were evacuated from the area after being attacked by protesters, Army Radio said.

According to Walla News, its crew was approached by Palestinian reporters who told them to leave the area. When the Israeli crew refused, one of the Palestinian journalists reportedly called several masked men, who rushed over and menacingly surrounded the Israelis. One of the crew members was reportedly beaten.

Walla News said its team was successfully evacuated to a Palestinian security headquarters and then transferred to Israeli authorities. It said the mob of young men followed the Palestinian forces and the Israeli journalists as they attempted to drive away from the area, surrounding and beating on their vehicle.

Smaller protests took place in Kafr Qaddum, Bil’in, Tulkarem, Nablus and at the Qalandiya checkpoint near Ramallah.

Palestinian security forces, wary of the volatile situation after Thursday’s deaths, had called on protesters to refrain from clashes with Israeli soldiers.

The Palestinian Authority declared a national day of mourning Friday in order to allow mass participation in the funerals of the two slain youths, whom unconfirmed reports identified as Nadem Syam, 17, and Mohamad Odeh, 15.

Palestinians said the two had been killed by live ammunition, but Border Police sources insisted troops had only used rubber-coated bullets. The IDF said it was investigating the incident.

Nakba (Catastrophe) Day is observed by Palestinians and their supporters to commemorate their displacement following the establishment of the State of Israel.

A senior Palestinian source warned Thursday that security coordination between Israel and the Palestinian Authority was on the verge of collapse following the fatal clashes. The source, in a conversation with The Times of Israel, said that recent, “dangerous” developments on the ground had already led to heavy pressure on the Palestinian leadership to immediately sever ties with Israel’s security apparatus.

The source said that there was coordination between the two sides ahead of Thursday’s demonstrations, but that it wasn’t enough to prevent the fatalities. He added that, during discussions with Israeli defense officials in the wake of the incident, the PA was assured that an investigation would be launched into what caused the deaths and whether soldiers had fired live ammunition.

But even if they didn’t die of live fire, the source said, Fatah and other organizations were demanding that Palestinian defense officials cease coordination with Israel.

“We don’t want an escalation,” he said. “But understand that the situation on the ground is on the brink of exploding.

“We can act to calm the [people’s] sentiments, but it only takes one bullet to raise these feelings again,” he continued, noting that the PA has been organizing meetings to address continued security coordination with Israel.

“We aren’t the South Lebanon Army,” said the source, a reference to the militia group Israel once used as a proxy in southern Lebanon against the PLO and Hezbollah. “You must do something here in order to stabilize the situation. [There is] ongoing construction in the settlements, a refusal to freeze construction, and continued mistreatment of Palestinians.

“There is now a hunger strike among the prisoners and the whole situation is very volatile,” continued the source. “We say to you, if conditions continue like this, we will pass over to you the mechanisms [of control] and you will have to deal with the situation.”

Sources in the IDF and the defense establishment refused to comment directly on the situation, although they warned that stopping security cooperation could harm Palestinians and the economic situation in the West Bank. The Israeli sources lauded the continued security coordination, since, they said, it serves the interests of both sides.

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