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Clashes erupt as thousands protest in solidarity with hunger-striking prisoners

April 21, 2017 5:57 P.M. (Updated: April 24, 2017 7:28 P.M.)
A graphic for the "Freedom and Dignity" strike depicting high profile Palestinian prisoners Marwan Barghouthi, Ahmad Saadat, Karim Yunis, Nael Barghouthi, Fouad Shubaki
BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) -- Clashes erupted between Palestinians and Israeli forces, with at least one Palestinian being detained, across the occupied West Bank on Friday, as Palestinians from several districts staged solidarity protests with hunger-striking Palestinian prisoners who entered the fifth day of the mass “Freedom and Dignity” strike on Friday.

Initially called for by Fatah-affiliated prisoners, Palestinian prisoners from across the political spectrum have since pledged their commitment to undertake the strike, with the media committee of the “Freedom and Dignity” strike estimating on Tuesday that some 1,500 prisoners were forgoing food.

The hunger strikers have denounced the torture, ill treatment, and medical neglect of Palestinian prisoners at the hands of Israeli authorities, as well as Israel’s widespread use of administrative detention -- internment without trial or charges -- which is only permitted under international law in extremely limited circumstances.

Northern West Bank

One Palestinian teenager was detained from the Nablus district as Israeli forces attempted to prevent worshipers from performing Friday prayers at the Beita crossroads south of Nablus city. Locals identified the teen as 16-year-old Muhammad Qassem Abu Mazen.

Dozens of Palestinian worshipers from the villages of Beita, Osarin, Udala, and Aqraba had gathered at the crossroads to perform Friday prayers as a form of demonstration in solidarity with hunger-striking prisoners.

An Israeli army spokesperson said they were unaware of the detention, and would look into reports of the incident.

Meanwhile in Nablus city, hundreds of Palestinians performed prayers at the al-Shuhada Square, also in solidarity with prisoners. The action was organized by the Fatah movement and other political factions of the Nablus district, who told Ma’an that “more solidarity activity would be carried out” in a tent set up in al-Shuhada Square.

Worshipers gather at al-Shuhada Square in Nablus to perform Friday prayers. (MaanImages)

South of Nablus city, residents of the Balata refugee camp continued to show their presence at a solidarity sit-in tent installed in the camp. Among those attending the sit-in were representatives of various political factions, as well as the families of hunger-striking prisoners.

Central West Bank

In the Salfit district, dozens of Palestinians performed Friday prayers on lands of the Deir Istiya town as a message to prisoners that “we are with them,” local Fatah representative Abd al-Sattar Amin told Ma’an.

Soldiers were deployed in the area, though no clashes were reported.

Clashes erupted near Ofer prison west of Ramallah after dozens of Palestinians performed Friday prayers on lands of the Rafat village, which Ofer is built on, in solidarity with prisoners.

Following the prayers, tens of Palestinians took part in a solidarity march headed towards Ofer, which was the site of a barbecue on Thursday, put on by right-wing Israeli settlers who wanted to “celebrate the hunger strike,” to break the will of the Palestinian hunger strikers by cooking barbecue so that the smells would enter the prison cells.

Israeli forces fired tear gas, stun grenades and rubber-coated steel bullets to suppress the march on Friday, injuring some.

An Israeli army spokesperson told Ma'an that "earlier today a violent riot broke out involving tens of Palestinians who hurled rocks near the Beituniya crossing west of Ramallah. In order to prevent an escalation of violence Israeli forces used riot dispersal means."

Some 40,000 Palestinians performed Friday prayers inside the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, Firas al-Dibs, spokesperson of the Islamic Waqf -- the organization responsible for managing the holy site -- told Ma’an.

Sheikh Muhammad Hussein, who delivered the sermon to worshipers, stressed to worshipers the importance of supporting and showing solidarity with the hunger-striking prisoners who are “demanding their freedom.”

Meanwhile, several Palestinians who had been banned from entering the Al-Aqsa Mosque performed Friday prayers for the third week in a row outside the Lion's Gate, in protest of being banned from the holy site. The worshipers also expressed solidarity with hunger-striking prisoners.

Southern West Bank

In the city of Bethlehem, Israeli forces suppressed a solidarity march by firing tear gas at protesters, who marched from a sit-in tent outside the al-Azza refugee camp -- where dozens had gathered to perform Friday prayers -- towards Israel’s illegal separation wall, carrying signs and chanting slogans in support of the hunger-striking prisoners.

Several protesters suffered from severe tear gas inhalation.

An Israeli army spokesperson said they were looking into reports
Dozens gather at a sit-in tent in Bethlehem to perform Friday prayers. (MaanImages)

Diaspora

In the Syrian capital of Damascus, the Palestinian embassy organized a solidarity event that was attended by representatives of various Palestinian political factions, including Samir al-Rifai, a member of the Fatah central committee, who represented the PLO at the event.
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