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Clashes erupt across Palestinian cities after calls for 'day of rage'

West Bank demonstrations in support of hunger-striking Palestinian prisoners spark clashes with Israeli forces
Palestinian protesters clash with Israeli soldiers over prison hunger strike (AFP)

Clashes hit several Palestinian cities on Friday after protesters called for a "day of rage" in solidarity with more than 1,500 prisoners on hunger strike in Israeli prisons.

A source on the ground told Middle East Eye that confrontations between the Israeli army and hundreds of Palestinian protesters flared up across areas of east Ramallah, north Hebron, south Nablus and Bethlehem.

Israeli soldiers clash with Palestinian protesters in the occupied West Bank village of Silwad, on April 28, 2017 (AFP)

Meanwhile, dozens of young Palestinians clashed with the Israeli army near Qalandia checkpoint, north of Jerusalem, after the army used tear gas and rubber and steel bullets to disperse the demonstrations, the MEE source reported. The checkpoint, connecting Jerusalem and Ramallah, was closed off.

In the village of Silwad, on the West Bank, protesters hurled stones at Israeli troops manning a tower, AFP reported. The soldiers retaliated by firing stun grenades and tear gas.

Palestinians protest in support of Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli jails, in front of the Dome of the Rock on 28 April 2017 (Reuters)

The Palestinian Red Crescent reported that eight Palestinians were wounded in clashes across the West Bank.

A spokeswoman for the Israeli army said that about 2,000 Palestinians took part in what she called "violent riots" across the West Bank and had been "dispersed". She gave no other details, AFP said.

Call for solidarity

The day of action was called by Fatah, the political party of the Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, and the national committee to support the prisoners’ hunger strike.

In a statement issued last week, Fatah called on Palestinians to instigate clashes with Israeli forces to express solidarity with the hunger-striking prisoners, who entered their 12th day without food on Friday.

The statement said the "excessive" practices of the Israeli occupation, particularly by the Israeli Prison Service, meant Palestinians should "clash with the occupier everywhere across our homeland".

Clashes also occurred near Ofer Prison north of Jerusalem in the occupied West Bank, where several dozen protesters confronted Israeli forces last week after Israeli hardliners taunted Palestinian detainees on hunger strike by barbecuing outside a prison.

Protesters in the West bank village of Beita, near Nablus, on 28 April 2017 (Reuters)

Palestinian officials say about 1,500 prisoners are participating in the hunger strike that began on 17 April, with detainees ingesting only water and salt. Israeli authorities have put the number at around 1,200.

Some 6,500 Palestinians are currently imprisoned by Israel for a range of offences and alleged crimes. Around 500 are being held under Israel's system of administrative detention, which allows for imprisonment without charge.

Prisoners want better care

Palestinian prisoners have mounted many hunger strikes, but rarely on such a scale.

The strike is being led by Palestinian leader and prominent prisoner Marwan Barghouti, who is serving five life sentences for his role in the second Palestinian intifada, or uprising, of 2000 to 2005.

The prisoners have issued demands ranging from better medical care to phone access.

Barghouti is popular among Palestinians, with polls suggesting he could win the Palestinian presidency.

A Palestinian NGO said this week that Barghouti's health has seriously declined and that he was refusing medical treatment.

Palestinian leaders have denounced Israel's refusal to negotiate with the hunger strikers, warning of a "new intifada" if any of them die.