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Thousands demonstrate for Palestinian Prisoners' Day, as Israeli forces detain 4

April 17, 2017 6:41 P.M. (Updated: April 19, 2017 11:56 A.M.)
A Palestinian youth kicks a football into a fire near an Israeli military base during a protest for Palestinian Prisoners' Day in Bethlehem. (MaanImages/Chloe Benoist)
BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) -- Thousands of Palestinians marched to mark Palestinian Prisoners’ Day across the occupied Palestinian territory on Monday, with Israeli forces notably suppressing a demonstration in the southern occupied West Bank city of Bethlehem, and detaining four young Palestinians at another demonstration in the central West Bank.

Israeli forces detained four Palestinian minors during clashes which erupted at the end of a march launched by Palestinian students near the Ofer detention center -- the only Israeli prison in the West Bank -- in the Ramallah district.

Israeli soldiers fired tear gas and rubber-coated bullets towards Palestinians, who threw rocks in the direction of soldiers. Israeli forces then raided the nearby village of Beituniya, chasing and assaulting protesters.

The four detained Palestinians were identified as Ahmad Turki, 15, Hassan Zeid, 14, Usama Urabi, 15, and Muhammad Sarafandi, 17.

An Israeli army spokesperson told Ma'an that a "violent riot" erupted outside of the Ofer prison, with demonstrators throwing rocks in the direction of Israeli security forces, who then fired rubber-coated bullets.

The spokesperson said she was unaware of any injuries on either the Israeli or Palestinian side. Neither the army nor Israeli police reported on any detentions.

Meanwhile, more than 1,500 Palestinians -- including hundreds of women and middle- and high-school students -- demonstrated in Bethlehem in support of the estimated 6,300 Palestinians currently held in Israeli prisons, waving Palestinian, Fatah, Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), and Palestinian Prisoner’s Society (PPS) flags.

“We are out today to express our solidarity and support for the demands of Palestinian prisoners in the occupation’s prisons against its racist and inhuman procedures,” the director of Bethlehem office of the Palestinian Committee of Prisoners’ Affairs, Munqith Abu Atwan said during the demonstration.

Demonstrators expressed support for the “Freedom and Dignity” prisoner hunger strike which began earlier on Monday, bringing together as many as 1,600 prisoners from across the Palestinian political spectrum under the aegis of imprisoned Fatah leader Marwan Barghouthi.

Posters held at the protest read “We do not forget you, our heroic prisoners” and “The night of the prison cell won’t last, the night of the prison cell is short lived.”

Story continues below.
(MaanImages/Chloe Benoist)
Demonstrators hold photographs of relatives imprisoned by Israel in Bethlehem. (MaanImages/Chloe Benoist)
A tent erected for Palestinian Prisoners’ Day in Bethlehem. (MaanImages/Chloe Benoist)

The march began at the Bab al-Zqaq intersection between Bethlehem and the town of Beit Jala, and made its way towards Israel’s illegal separation wall north of Bethlehem.

As a smaller number of demonstrators approached the Israeli military base located directly adjacent to Jerusalem-Hebron road in Bethlehem, Israeli forces fired tear gas, sound bombs, and sponge-tipped bullets towards the crowd.

A number of demonstrators suffered from excessive tear gas inhalation and were treated by Palestinian medics, while a Ma’an reporter witnessed at least one Palestinian get hit by a sponge-tipped bullet, while another such bullet hit a truck which was trying to pass through the area.

Several Palestinian youths responded by throwing Molotov cocktails and rocks towards the wall, and setting trash and tires on fire.

An Israeli army spokesperson told Ma’an that Israeli forces used “crowd control measures” to disperse a “violent riot” in Bethlehem, adding that while no soldiers from the army sustained injuries, at least one demonstrator was confirmed hit by a sponge-tipped bullet.

Story continues below.
(MaanImages/Chloe Benoist)
(MaanImages/Chloe Benoist)
(MaanImages/Chloe Benoist)

Similar protests brought thousands of Palestinians into the streets in all major cities across the occupied West Bank, as well as in the besieged Gaza Strip.

According to Israeli news outlet Ynet, Palestinian citizens of Israel erected a tent in support of prisoners in the town of Umm al-Fahm.

Official Palestinian news agency Wafa reported that 30 students at the Arab American University in Jenin began a four-day hunger strike in solidarity with the prisoners, while Umm al-Fahm residents declared a similar one-day hunger strike.

Fatah leader Fahmi al-Zaarir also said during the demonstration in Hebron that a number of events were taking place abroad in solidarity with Palestinian prisoners, including in Africa and South America.

“The unity of prisoners in occupation prisons will leave the Palestinian street unified behind them,” the head of PPS in Hebron, Amjad Najjar, said. “Unity against the Israeli occupation’s arrogance has always been and still is Palestinian prisoners’ message to all.”
Demonstrators in Hebron

In Gaza, Hamas-affiliated Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) member Khalil al-Hayya called upon all Palestinian factions to stand up against what he called “the phenomenon of surrender to security coordination and political detention,” referring to the PA’s disputed policy of coordination with the Israeli army.
Demonstrators in Gaza
Demonstrators in Gaza

Israeli authorities have detained approximately one million Palestinians since the establishment of the state of Israel in 1948 and the subsequent occupation of the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip in 1967, according to a joint statement released on Saturday by Palestinian organizations.

Palestinian rights groups have long accused Israeli authorities of torture, harassment, and medical neglect of Palestinians in their custody.
Demonstrators in Jenin
Demonstrators in Tulkarem
Demonstrators in Tubas
Demonstrators in Nablus
Demonstrators in Qalqiliya
Demonstrators in Salfit
Demonstrators in Ramallah
Demonstrators in Jericho
Demonstrators in Jericho
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