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Israeli forces injure 11 Palestinians during hunger strike solidarity march

May 11, 2017 5:15 P.M. (Updated: May 12, 2017 12:37 P.M.)
RAMALLAH (Ma’an) -- Israeli forces injured at least 11 Palestinians during a solidarity march in Ramallah in the central occupied West Bank on Thursday, as clashes erupted with Israeli forces near the illegal settlement of Beit El.

The march set off from a solidarity tent erected at Yasser Arafat Square in central Ramallah city for the estimated 1,600 Palestinians currently on hunger strike in Israeli prisons. When protesters began to march toward the Beit El settlement -- built on Palestinian lands in violation of international law -- Israeli forces began shooting live bullets, rubber-coated steel bullets, and tear gas at demonstrators to prevent them from approaching the military checkpoint located near the settlement.

According to witnesses, five Palestinians were injured by live bullets, five by rubber-coated steel bullets, and one was wounded with “tutu” ammunition -- .22 caliber bullets deemed less “severe” than normal bullets, but whose dangerosity led them to be temporarily outlawed by an Israeli court in 2001.

Other witnesses at the scene also reported that Israeli forces had released skunk spray on the protesters -- a putrid-smelling liquid Israel periodically uses against Palestinian protesters whose smell can linger for weeks at a time.

Hunger strike leaders initially called for a general strike on Thursday, but was later cancelled for Palestinians to focus on solidarity actions instead in a “Day of Rage.”

According to witnesses, Israeli forces implemented tightened security measures across the West Bank in preparation for protests, including employing a helicopter to patrol at least one Israeli settlement in Bethlehem, while Israeli soldiers stopped Palestinian vehicles at checkpoints and took photos of their IDs.

Others told Ma'an that Israeli soldiers had asked Palestinians for their phone numbers at checkpoints, and called them on the spot to ensure they were not lying.

An Israeli army spokesperson told Ma’an she would look into reports on the clashes and heightened security measures that were implemented in the Palestinian territory on Thursday.

Some 1,600 Palestinians entered their 25th day on hunger strike on Thursday, as they continue to demand an end to the denial of family visits, the right to pursue higher education, appropriate medical care and treatment, and an end to solitary confinement and administrative detention -- imprisonment without charge or trial -- among other demands for basic rights.
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