West Bank boiling as popular resistance grows

by Maan News: 01,03,2013 (updated on 03.03.2013)

Protester uses a sling shot to throw stones towards Israeli forces
during clashes at Hawara checkpoint near the West Bank city of
Nablus March 1, 2013. (Reuters/Abed Omar Qusini)
RAMALLAH (Ma’an) — Dozens of Palestinian protesters were hit by rubber-coated bullets while others suffered from tear gas during clashes Friday across the West Bank between Israeli troops and protesters.

Hundreds of young Palestinians rallied after Friday prayers to protest the death of a young Palestinian man, Arafat Jaradat, last week only five days after he was detained and interrogated by Israeli intelligence, and to show solidarity with hunger-striking Palestinian prisoners.

A Ma’an reporter in Ramallah in the central West Bank said clashes broke out in different areas in the district including nearby al-Bireh, a neighborhood in Beitunia close to Israel’s Ofer detention center, the Qalandiya checkpoint and the town of Bilin west of Ramallah.

He highlighted that more than 15 young men were hit by rubber-coated bullets in addition to dozens who were hurt by tear gas which Israeli troops fired heavily near Ofer detention center.

Large numbers of Israeli troops deployed heavily in the area. They showered the protesters with foul-smelling liquids. The protesters, for their part, threw stones and empty bottles at the soldiers.

Similar clashes erupted near Qalandiya checkpoint between Ramallah and Jerusalem during which six young Palestinians were hit by rubber-coated gunshots, and several others were hurt by tear gas.

The Ma’an reporter highlighted that high velocity tear-gas canisters the soldiers fired hit some vehicles as they traveled on the main road near Qalandia.

In Bilin to the west of Ramallah, locals marched after the Friday prayer commemorating the eighth anniversary of the popular resistance movement which started in the village when Israel started to build the separation wall.

Prime Minister Salam Fayyad joined the rally in Bilin along with Palestinian officials and faction leaders. Among the participants were the governor of Nablus Layla Ghannam, secretary-general of the Palestinian Liberation Front Wasil Abu Yousif, DFLP official Ramzi Rabah, secretary-general of the Palestinian National Initiative Mustafa Barghouthi, official in the Popular Struggle Front Rizq Nammura, and others.

Fayyad and the governor of Ramallah were among hundreds who choked seriously as they inhaled tear gas. Foreign solidarity activists who joined the rally were hurt as well, while four young Palestinian men were hit by high-velocity tear gas canisters.

According to a Ma’an reporter, Israeli soldiers showered the participants with tear gas canisters, stun grenades, and foul-smelling liquids while others fired rubber-coated bullets.

The soldiers, he said, chased the protesters in military jeeps between olive trees in the fields. As a result four young men were hit by high-velocity tear gas canisters. They were identified as 17-year-old Muatasim Mansour, 20-year-old Issam Yasin, 22-year-old cameraman Ali Abu Rahma, and 18-year-old assistant paramedic Nimir Malasa. Two of the victims were hit right in the head, and were evacuated to Palestine Medical Compound in Ramallah. The other two were hit in the abdomen and one on the foot.

Two ambulances were also hit by tear gas canisters smashing their windshields.

Bethlehem district in the southern West Bank saw clashes after Friday prayers in several locations across the district including in Tuqu to the east where Israeli troops dispersed a rally using tear gas canisters and rubber-coated bullets. No injuries have been reported.

Other skirmishes broke out in the town of al-Khader south of Bethlehem city. The clashes took place near al-Nashash gas station very close to the Israeli bypass road known as route 60. Locals told Ma’an that dozens choked as a result of inhaling tear gas.

More clashes erupted in Nabi Salih village after Israeli forces forcibly dispersed the village’s weekly protest against Israel’s separation wall and settlement activities. A statement by a local popular resistance committee said Israeli forces assaulted the participants using tear gas canisters and rubber-coated bullets as they arrived at Mustafa Tamimi Street. Six demonstrators were hit by rubber-coated bullets and a foreign female activist fainted during the clashes.

Confrontations were also reported at the entrance to the east Jerusalem town of Anata. Witnesses said several young men were hit by high-velocity tear gas canisters and rubber-coated bullets.

Fierce clashes also erupted in the central West Bank city of Salfit, namely on lands belonging to the Palestinian ministry of endowment.

Locals said the ministry decided to perform Friday prayers on that land to protest damages to the land by the Israeli Ariel industrial zone. After the prayer, hundreds of worshipers rallied before Israeli soldiers stopped them using tear gas, stun grenades and rubber-coated bullets. Several demonstrators were hurt.

An Israeli army spokeswoman said hundreds of people in Abu Dis, Nablus and Bilin threw rocks at Israeli forces, who responded with riot dispersal means.