Israeli army responds to fresh protests with live fire

More than 80 injured in protests called by the Palestinian leadership against US president's Jerusalem declaration.

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    The largest demonstration took place at Qalandia, where thousands rallied [Anadolu/Mostafa Alkharouf]
    The largest demonstration took place at Qalandia, where thousands rallied [Anadolu/Mostafa Alkharouf]

    More than 80 Palestinians have been injured in fresh protests across the West Bank, two weeks after US President Donald Trump's recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital, according to the Red Crescent. 

    At least three people were injured with live bullets, more than 20 with rubber-coated steel bullets and 40 by tear-gas inhalation in Wednesday's protests called for by the Palestinian Authority, several political parties and trade unions.

    The confrontations with the Israeli army unfolded after Day of Rage rallies were staged in various areas of the occupied West Bank including Hebron, Nablus, Bethlehem and Jericho.

    The largest demonstration commenced at the Qalandia military checkpoint, the main point splitting the occupied West Bank from Jerusalem and a constant flashpoint in the conflict.

    Jihad Barakat, a local journalist who was reporting from Qalandia, estimates that about 5,000 Palestinians attended the rally there, which took off at about 12pm local time (10:00 GMT).

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    "There was at least one injury at Qalandia from live ammunition and there was heavy use of tear gas. On the Israeli army's jeeps, there are these guns that fire about 30 tear-gas canisters consecutively, so the whole area becomes filled with smoke," he said.

    A number of politicians also joined the protests, including the Minister of Health Jawad Awwad, Hamas leader Jamal al-Taweel, and Fatah spokesman Osama Qawasmeh.

    Local activist Mariam Barghouti told Al Jazeera that the rally at Qalandia turned violent "when the Israeli forces began firing tear gas".

    " ... the crowd grew smaller leaving only young Palestinians who began to confront the army with stones," continued Barghouti, explaining that the army then responded with rubber bullets and live ammunition.

    The rallies come exactly two weeks after Trump decided to declare that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel.

    He also said the US would move its embassy, currently located in the Israeli commercial capital Tel Aviv, to Jerusalem.

    While there have been daily protests against Trump's decision, most of the reaction on the ground is being seen as top-down in nature - that is, called and organised by political leaders as opposed to grassroots activists.

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    Barghouti said that the rally at Qalandia started with a "big crowd mostly affiliated with Fatah", which is the ruling political party in the occupied West Bank.

    "If you ask any of the guys protesting, they'll tell you: 'Trump wasn't any new news for us'. There's no momentum," said Barghouti.

    Others on the ground have also expressed their indifference to Trump's declaration.

    Palestinians in the West Bank, who number more than three million, are already cut off from Jerusalem by the Israeli separation wall and need difficult-to-obtain permits from the Israeli military to enter.

    Similarly, the two million Palestinians in the Gaza Strip are under a suffocating siege and need military permits, which are rarely issued, to visit Jerusalem. 

    "To regular people, it doesn't really matter if the embassy stays in Tel Aviv or is relocated to Jerusalem," Amani Khalifa, a Jerusalem-based activist, said in a recent article.

    Due to Jerusalem's importance to followers of the Abrahamic religions, the city's status has long been the main sticking point in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

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    Israel occupied the eastern half of the city, which houses the Old City and the religious landmarks such as the al-Aqsa Mosque compound, in 1967.

    It then proceeded to annex it and in 1980 proclaimed it as its "eternal, undivided capital".

    Israel's control and sovereignty over the city, however, is not recognised by any country in the world.

    As of now, all embassies in Israel are based in Tel Aviv, although some countries have maintained diplomatic posts in Jerusalem.

    The Palestinian leadership, which is committed to establishing a Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as the capital, sees Trump's declaration as a potentially fatal blow.

    But for the average Palestinian in the occupied territories, the US announcement has merely underlined the obvious.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera News


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