Israeli forces have fired tear gas at Palestinians protesting against the expansion of Israeli settlements, considered illegal under international law, in northern occupied West Bank, injuring dozens of them, according to local media reports.
Friday’s two demonstrations in al-Sawiya and Kafr Qaddum coincided with the 72nd anniversary of the Nakba, or the “day of catastrophe”, in which Israel was officially declared a state following the forced removal of more than 750,000 Palestinians from their homes and the destruction of some 500 villages and towns.
Later on Friday, at least three Palestinians were shot by Israeli soldiers after they allegedly attempted to attack a military post in Abu Dis, a village near occupied East Jerusalem.
“An attack was thwarted moments ago when IDF [Israeli army] troops spotted 3 Palestinians hurling explosives & lighting Molotov cocktails, preparing to attack an IDF post,” the Israeli military said in a statement on its Twitter page.
“Our troops responded with fire and thwarted the attack,” the statement added.
The Palestinian Red Crescent Society said the three men were shot with live ammunition and were transferred to hospital for treatment.
Following a brief lull of confrontations during the coronavirus pandemic, tensions have risen in recent days leading up to the expected swearing-in of Israel’s new coalition government whose agenda includes a possible declaration of sovereignty over Jewish settlements and the Jordan Valley in the West Bank – a de facto annexation.
The Palestinians want the West Bank as part of a future state and deem Israeli settlements there illegal, as do most world powers, but Israel and the United States dispute that view.
As many as 50,000 Palestinians living in the Jordan Valley own about 12,355 acres (5,000 hectares) of agricultural land, which constitutes half of the total agricultural land providing food security to Palestinians in the West Bank.
Palestinian officials have threatened to abolish bilateral agreements with Israel if it goes ahead with the plan to annex parts of the West Bank as early as July 1.
On Friday, Jordan’s King Abdulla II warned Israel of a “massive conflict” if it went ahead with the plan.
“Leaders who advocate a one-state solution do not understand what that would mean,” he said in an interview published by Germany’s Der Spiegel.
“What would happen if the Palestinian National Authority collapsed? There would be more chaos and extremism in the region. If Israel really annexed the West Bank in July, it would lead to a massive conflict with the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan,” he said.
Meanwhile, the European Union pledged to launch diplomatic efforts in an attempt to stop the annexation from taking place.
The potential Israeli move is in line with US President Donald Trump’s so-called Middle East proposal, which was unveiled in January.
Trump’s plan, which was categorically rejected by the Palestinians as utterly biased in favour of Israel, gives Israel the green light to annex settlements and strategic areas of the West Bank.
For much of the international community, such a move by Israel would amount to a grave violation of international law and crush hopes of a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It could also further inflame regional tensions.