Undeterred by Israeli threats to hold up a land transfer and use more force, hundreds of Palestinians marched today on Israeli army positions in the West Bank and Gaza Strip and hurled stones for a seventh straight day, Reuters reported Saturday.
At least 33 Palestinians were injured by rubber-coated steel pellets fired by Israeli troops.
A Palestinian died Saturday from injuries caused by an Israeli rubber bullet during demonstrations Friday in Ramallah, a hospital source told AFP.
Issa Adel Karakra, 29, from al-Bireh near Ramallah, in the center of the West Bank, was one of three people seriously hurt in the demonstrations on the first of two "days of rage" proclaimed by Palestinian groups.
Palestinians took to the streets beginning last Sunday to press demands for the release of 1,650 prisoners held by Israel for anti-Israeli attacks. Palestinian activists have declared Friday and today “days of rage” to draw attention to the issue.
In the divided West Bank town of Hebron, about 1,500 demonstrators marched toward an Israeli army checkpoint at the entrance to the Israeli-controlled downtown area today. Palestinian police did not intervene.
Standing on rooftops and behind cement blocks, Israeli troops fired rubber bullets at hundreds of stone-throwers. Some were masked, others hurled slingshots for greater reach. One young Palestinian was about to throw a stone when he was hit in the chest by a rubber bullet and fell to the ground. Three bystanders carried him to an ambulance, one of six on standby at the scene. In all, 27 were injured in Hebron, paramedics said.
In the West Bank town of Tulkarem, about 400 Palestinians threw stones at Israeli soldiers guarding a crossing point into Israel. A phalanx of six Israeli jeeps tried to hold the crowd at bay. About two dozen young men took cover behind barrels, and lunged forward from time to time to throw stones.
In the Gaza Strip, hundreds of Palestinian police tried to keep stone-throwers away from an isolated Israeli army post near the Jewish settlement of Netzarim. At first, Palestinian police moved aggressively, tackling protesters, bundling them into pickup trucks and driving them away. However, most made their way back to the scene.
Israeli soldiers initially did not respond, as is customary, with rubber bullets. A senior Palestinian official said both sides had agreed they would try to hold their fire and disperse the crowd without violence. Israeli troops began firing, however, when Palestinian demonstrators moved closer to the Israeli checkpoint.
The Netzarim Junction was the scene of a gunfight between Israeli and Palestinian troops on Friday in which 11 Palestinians and an Israeli soldier were wounded.
Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak has threatened to delay an upcoming Israeli withdrawal from three West Bank villages next to Jerusalem if the violence is not immediately curtailed.
He has also said he might postpone his trip to Washington, scheduled for next Monday and Tuesday, if tensions remain high in the Palestinian areas and along the Israeli-Lebanese border.
The commander of Israeli forces in the West Bank, Maj. Gen. Moshe Yaalon, said that if the escalation continued, Israel might bring in attack helicopters or even enter areas under Palestinian control.
“If they don't take control of the riots and we suffer casualties, we will have no choice but to fight back,” Yaalon told Israel TV's Channel One on Friday.
In its weekly meeting Friday evening, the Palestinian Cabinet blamed Israel. “The Palestinian leadership condemns the actions of the Israeli troops who fired live shots, rubber bullets and gas at peaceful demonstrations,” a Cabinet statement was quoted by Reuters as stating – (Several Sources)
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