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West Bank clashes as Gaza solidarity protests stepped up

Palestinians have clashed with Israeli soldiers across the West Bank, while the PA calls for protests in solidarity with Gaza
Protests began in the West Bank shortly after the beginning of Israel's Gaza offensive on 7 July (AFP)

Clashes broke out between Palestinian protesters and Israeli soldiers across the West Bank on Thursday, as demonstrations against Israel’s military offensive continue to intensify.

Israeli forces fired tear gas canisters at protesters in the village of Bil’in, near Ramallah, according to Palestinian Ma’an News, which said “dozens” had suffered from “excessive tear gas inhalation”.

Clashes were also reported in Hebron and the southern West Bank, protesters fought with soldiers on Wednesday evening and early Thursday morning, according to the Israeli-Palestinian run Alternative Information Centre (AIC).

In Ramallah demonstrators also took to the streets, carrying mock coffins through the streets to express solidarity with the hundreds killed in Gaza since Israel launched their military campaign on 7 July. At the rally, protesters said the attacks on Gaza had reinforced Palestinian unity.

“Palestinians are united and cannot be divided,” local resident Ghannam told Ma’an News. “The blood of our people in the West Bank is mixed with the blood of Gazas.”

“The blood is one, the decision is one, and the goal is one,” she added.

(Photo Credit: Anadolu Agency)

Palestinians have been taking to the streets all week, with two Palestinian demonstrators killed in the village of Husan, near Bethlehem, on Tuesday. T Mahmoud Hamamra, 32, and his teenage cousin Mohammed Hamamra were shot by Israeli soldiers, according to AFP, and later died of their injuries after being rushed to a local hospital. 

Protests have also broked out in Husan, in the central West Bank, where demonstrators threw stones and set off fireworks at Israeli soldiers, who responded by firing tear gas and stun grenades. The AIC claims that soldiers fired rubber bullets and live ammunition at demonstrators, citing an eyewitness who said Hamamra was hit in the chest.

In the town of Kfar Tel, north-east of Nablus, an Israeli soldier was injured in clashes with protesters on Wednesday night, while on Thursday morning Palestinians opened fire against an Israeli army patrol near the settlement of Itamar.

The latest wave of protests come on the back of widespread unrest across the West Bank which has been simmering for almost a month but intensifed last week in many parts of the West Bank. On 20 July demonstrations were held in Ramallah, Nablus, Hebron, Bethlehem, Tulkarem and Jerusalem, with reports of injuries in several locations.

Israeli police say they have arrested some 800 Arab-Israelis, as well as 295 Palestinians in East Jerusalem, since protests erupted on 8 July, shortly after the Gaza offensive began.

Anti-war protests have been place in Israel too, where hundreds of people turned out in Tel Aviv on 19 July holding signs saying “Free Gaza”.

On Tuesday night there was also a large gathering of Israeli artists, who spoke out against their government’s military offensive in Gaza, with social media calling for another protest this Saturday.

In the West Bank, protests look set to continue after a political committee chaired by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas called for nationwide marches after Friday prayers this week, according to the official Palestine News Agency.

The statement issued on Wednesday urged “widespread popular protest in solidarity with Gaza and the resistance” and comes after Abbas stated Israel will be held to account for those killed in their military offensive.