Worst Clashes between Palestinians and Israeli Troops on Eve of ‘Great Catastrophe’ Anniversary
The worst clashes between Palestinians and Israeli troops for months were expected to escalate on Monday as Palestinians mark the 52nd anniversary of the “catastrophe” -- the founding of Israel.
Violence erupted on Sunday at protests held to demand the release of 1,650 Palestinians imprisoned by Israel.
Tension was high ahead of Palestinian commemorations of Monday's anniversary of the “Nakba” or “Great Catastrophe” caused by Israel's creation in 1948, when hundreds of thousands were uprooted from their homes on land that is now part of Israel.
Israeli troops shot dead a 17-year-old youth near the West Bank town of Qalqilya, according to Palestinian witnesses, and more than 30 protesters were wounded by rubber bullets in several places in the West Bank and Gaza.
Israel's army blamed the Palestinian Authority for failing to prevent the protests from spilling over from Palestinian-ruled areas into areas of the West Bank and Gaza still controlled by Israel.
The army said Palestinian protesters threw stones and bottles at Israeli troops and lightly wounded at least three soldiers. It said it used “riot control techniques” to disperse the protesters.
An effigy of Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak was shot at and torched by masked Palestinian youths in the Balata refugee camp near Nablus.
PALESTINIANS RIOT IN MILITARY PRISON
Prison officials battled for several hours to quell a riot by Palestinian prisoners at the Megiddo military prison.
The army said prison guards fired teargas to break up the riot as prisoners hurled missiles at guards and set fire to tents. Firefighters were called to put out the blaze.
Palestinian prisoners, who used cellular phones to call friends and relatives as the riots were taking place, said dozens of prisoners were hurt.
The Israeli army said two guards and three prisoners were lightly wounded. It said all were given first aid and none needed to be hospitalized.
Palestinian students near the West Bank town of Ramallah held a late night protest on Sunday in support of the Megiddo prisoners. They pelted Israeli soldiers with stones. The soldiers fired teargas and rubber-coated metal bullets.
Eissa Qaraqa, head of the Palestinian Prisoners Club in Bethlehem, said around 750 prisoners at the Israel-run jail had been staging a peaceful protest over living conditions when they came under attack from prison guards and Israeli troops.
Qaraqa told AFP that some of those hurt had been taken to a nearby hospital, adding that several tents that serve as cells for the prisoners at Megiddo were set ablaze.
An Israeli army source confirmed the incident but said only a few prisoners were injured and two tents burned.
One of the prisoners, Khaled al-Batat, 29, told AFP by telephone that inmates had staged a protest near the prison fence in solidarity with fellow detainees in jails across Israel.
"Right away they started firing gas grenades. Three tents burned and dozens of people fell unconscious from inhaling gas," he said.
ARAFAT HEADS FATAH MEETING OVER PRISONERS’ISSUE
Palestinian President Yasser Arafat chaired an emergency committee meeting of his Fatah movement Sunday after the Palestinian young man was shot dead by Israeli troops and violence flared at an Israeli prison.
Earlier Sunday, Israeli security forces fired rubber bullets and tear gas at hundreds of demonstrating Palestinian prisoners at the jail in northern Israel, injuring dozens, some seriously.
"Fatah condemns the Israeli measures against the detainees of the prison, and calls on the international community to exert pressure on Israel to free Palestinian prisoners, in line with its commitments," the WAFA news agency reported, wuoting a statement released after the two-hour meeting in the West Bank town of Ramallah.
"Fatah will continue to press the struggle for the release of the Palestinian prisoners," the statement continued – (Agencies)
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