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Hundreds protest across West Bank to support hunger strikers

Feb. 15, 2013 2:15 P.M. (Updated: Feb. 19, 2013 11:06 A.M.)
RAMALLAH (Ma’an) -- Hundreds of Palestinians protested across the West Bank on Friday in solidarity with prisoners on hunger strike, sparking clashes with Israeli forces.

Outside Israel's Ofer jail, near Ramallah, hundreds gathered in solidarity with Samer Issawi, who has been on hunger strike for 198 days, and Tareq Qaadan and Jaafar Azzidine who have refused food for 80 days.

Palestinian youths threw stones at Israeli forces, and soldiers attempted to push back the crowds, a Ma'an reporter said. Medics said 156 Palestinians were treated for tear gas inhalation.

An Israeli military spokeswoman said forces were responding to stone-throwing with riot dispersal means.

Palestinian MP Mustafa Barghouthi, Palestinian Knesset member Ahmad Tibi and Islamic Movement in Israel leader Shiekh Raed Salah attended Friday prayers outside the jail.

Barghouthi said around 1,000 Palestinians had gathered to show support to the Palestinians on hunger strike in Israeli jails.

Near Bethlehem in the southern West Bank, protesters raised Palestinian flags at the entrance to Efrat settlement.

Israeli forces assaulted journalists Samer Hamad, Ahmad Mizher and Ma'an cameraman Luai Sababa. Activists Moath al-Laham, Mahmud Alaa al-Din and Marwan Hamoud were also attacked by Israeli soldiers.

Clashes also erupted between demonstrators and Israeli forces at a protest in support of prisoners at Jalama checkpoint, in Jenin in the northern West Bank.

A Palestinian was hit by an Israeli military vehicle and then detained at the protest, a Ma'an reporter said. An Israeli military spokeswoman was not familiar with the incident but said 150 Palestinians were "rioting" at the checkpoint and hurling rocks at soldiers.

She said soldiers responded with riot dispersal means.

'Release all prisoners'

In al-Bireh, near Ramallah, President Mahmoud Abbas visited a solidarity tent to support the hunger strikers.

"As our dream of a state came true, I promise you the release all prisoners from the Israeli jails," the president said.

He called for previous agreements with Israel to be implemented regarding prisoners, and called on Arab countries to help pressure Israel.

The issue of prisoners is the most important part of the Palestinian cause, Abbas said.

Issawi, Qaadan and Azzidine are being held in administrative detention, without charge or trial, in Israel's Ramle prison.

Palestinian Authority Minister of Prisoner Affairs Issa Qaraqe warned Wednesday that the hunger strikes were "a countdown to disaster."

"We are living in very dangerous moments, and we expect that any one of the hunger strikers may die at any moment amid global silence," Qaraqe said at a meeting with UN officials in Ramallah.

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