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Deadly clashes in Gaza Strip and West Bank

Israeli forces kill eight Palestinians in 24 hours - six in a protest in Gaza and two in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem
Families mourn activist killed by Israeli security services (Mohammed Asad/MEE)

GAZA CITY - At least six Palestinians were killed and over 137 injured when large-scale clashes broke out in the Gaza Strip, and two Palestinians were killed in the occupied West Bank, including one after an alleged stabbing attack, sources said on Friday.

One of the dead, named locally as Mohammed Hisham al-Raqab, was 15 years old, according to Sky News Arabia. Another was 20-year-old Ziad Nabil Sharaf, according to the Maan news agency.

Violence broke out after Friday prayers amid an uptick in clashes between Palestinians and Israeli soldiers following anger around Israel's tightening of restrictions at Al-Aqsa Mosque, a symbolic holy site in Jerusalem.

"Now everyone should come down to demonstrate - we can't take it anymore," said Sharief Badran, an 18-year-old resident of Buriej in central Gaza who travelled to join demonstrations in Shujaiyya, a residential district of Gaza City. 

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(Video by Mohammed Asad in the Gaza StripLive ammunition was fired at demonstrators during the clashes.

An Israeli army spokeswoman said around 200 Palestinians had approached the fence while hurling rocks and rolling burning tyres toward security forces.

"Forces on the site responded with fire toward the main instigators to prevent their progress and disperse the riot," she said.

The spokeswoman confirmed “five hits” without elaborating.

Another man died during clashes in Khan Younis, according to a hospital spokesperson.

Gaza’s hospitals, which frequently complain of a lack of electricity and medication due to a years-long blockade by Israel, have said they are making preparations to receive large numbers of wounded people.

Meanwhile, a Palestinian accused of stabbing a soldier near the illegal Israeli settlement of Kiryat Arba near Hebron was shot dead by Israeli forces.

The Palestinian news agency Maan named the man as Muhammad Fares Abdullah al-Jaabari, 19. Later on Friday, Israeli media reported that a rocket fired from the Gaza Strip had landed in an open area in southern Israel, causing no injuries or damage.

Later in the night, Maan news agency's Arabic website reported that a Palestinian man was killed by Israeli forces during clashes in Shuafat refugee camp in East Jerusalem. The report said that two Palestinians were seriously injured by live fire and that one of them succumbed to his wounds, without naming him.

Witnesses in the West Bank and Jerusalem told MEE that they are afraid to leave their homes for fear of being attacked without provocation.

The Palestinian Red Cross reported a number of attacks carried out by Israeli security forces and citizens against residents of cities in the West Bank and Jerusalem.

Live as well as rubber bullets have injured almost 400 Palestinians in Ramallah, Nablus, Hebron, Tukaram, Qalqiliya and Jerusalem, the NGO added.

As violence appeared to spread in Gaza and the West Bank, Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh gave a speech in which he labelled the growing unrest an "intifada," or uprising.

Addressing the public during Friday prayers in Gaza City, Haniyeh said an intifada was "the only path that will lead to liberation".

"We are calling for the strengthening and increasing of the intifada ... Gaza will fulfil its role in the Jerusalem intifada and it is more than ready for confrontation."

Hanyieh also used his speech to urge the Palestinian Authority, which controls the West Bank, to stop negotiations with the Israelis.

"Negotiations were ended by an American-Israeli decision," he said, "and there should be a Palestinian decision to stop negotiations and end security coordination with the enemy."

Badran, the young man taking part in Friday's clashes in Shujaiyya, said he feels the world has forgotten that Gaza is still suffering.

"We are neither Hamas nor Fatah: we are a generation that demands to live in dignity," he told MEE amid the sounds of live ammunition being fired on protestors.

Meanwhile, Palestine Liberation Organisation secretary general Saeb Erekat accused Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his government of "committing a new massacre of Palestinians" in Gaza. 

Stabbing attacks in the West Bank, Jerusalem and Israel itself along with rioting have raised fears in Israel of a third Palestinian intifada, following a first that began in 1987 and a second in 2000.

Those two conflicts cost the lives of some 5,000 Palestinians and around 1,100 Israelis.

Friday's stabbings included one by a 17-year-old Jew in the southern Israeli city of Dimona that wounded two Palestinians and two Israeli citizens of Palestinian origin.

The teen told police who arrested him he had acted because "all Arabs are terrorists".

Attacks also continued against Jewish Israelis, with a Palestinian stabbing and lightly wounding a policeman near a West Bank settlement before being shot dead by the victim.

A Jewish 16-year-old was slightly hurt in a stabbing in Jerusalem by an 18-year-old Palestinian suspect, who was arrested.

And a Palestinian women with Israeli citizenship was shot and wounded by Israeli police at a bus station in the northern town of Afula, with conflicting accounts as to why she was hit.

There have been 14 stabbings since Saturday, including the attack by the Jewish suspect. Six of the alleged attackers have been killed.

Abbas has spoken out against violence and in favour of "peaceful, popular resistance," but many youths are frustrated with his leadership as well as Israel's government.

Fresh clashes between Palestinians and Israeli security forces broke out on Friday in various parts of East Jerusalem and the West Bank, including near Ramallah after the funeral of Mohannad Halabi, a 19-year-old killed after allegedly stabbing two Jews to death in Jerusalem's Old City on Saturday.

"We’re currently in a spiral that appears to be heading toward escalation," said Ido Zelkovitz, an expert on Palestinian history at Haifa University.

"The current clashes are being led by a young generation with no collective memory of the Second Intifada, which created very strong deterrence among the Palestinian leadership."

(Additional reporting by Mohammed Omer in the Gaza Strip)

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