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Clashes erupt as Palestinians rally to support hunger-striker

Feb. 17, 2016 10:14 A.M. (Updated: Feb. 17, 2016 8:45 P.M.)
A young Palestinian protester rolls a burning tire toward Israel's separation wall during clashes in Bethlehem. (MaanImages/Killian Redden, File)
RAMALLAH (Ma'an) -- Clashes broke out across the occupied West Bank on Tuesday night as Palestinians demonstrated in support of hunger-striking Palestinian prisoner Muhammad al-Qiq.

Clashes were reported near the illegal Israeli settlement of Beit El in al-Bireh, northeast of Ramallah, as well as in southern Bethlehem.

Palestinian protesters marched from a sit-in at al-Manara Circle in central Ramallah toward Beit El, where Israeli forces fired tear gas canisters and rubber-coated steel bullets.

The youths reportedly threw stones, Molotov cocktails, and empty bottles at the soldiers.

Meanwhile, clashes were also reported at the al-Nashash crossroads in southern Bethlehem following a sit-in held in support of the hunger-striker.

Clashes also broke out in the nearby town of al-Khader in southern Bethlehem.

Earlier Tuesday, Israel's Supreme Court rejected a petition seeking to have al-Qiq transferred to a hospital in the occupied West Bank.

The 33-year-old journalist went on hunger strike in late November to protest his administrative detention -- internment without trial or charge.

Palestinians have increasingly rallied to support the hunger-striker, now 85 days into his protest and in critical condition.

On Monday, video footage was widely circulated on social media showing the journalist screaming and writhing in pain.

Israel's Supreme Court had earlier ruled to temporarily "suspend" al-Qiq's administrative detention, but said it would be reinstated if his health improved.

Amnesty International criticized the ruling, saying it appeared to be "a mere gesture, designed to offer the illusion of freedom to prompt al-Qiq to end his hunger strike."

Israel has negotiated in cases of hunger strikes launched by Palestinian prisoners in the past out of fear that prisoners’ death could spark unrest in the occupied Palestinian territory, but the territory has already seen months of unrest.

Palestinian Prisoners’ Society head Qadura Fares said earlier this month that the Israeli security establishment now believes it has "nothing to lose" by failing to release al-Qiq before his death.

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