Dozens of Palestinians have been wounded in clashes with Israeli security forces during demonstrations in the West Bank to demand the release of hunger-striking prisoners, the Palestinian Red Crescent says.
The Red Crescent’s Mohammed Ayyad said that 94 Palestinians were wounded, two of them by live bullets, as police responded to stone-throwing demonstrators with tear gas, stun grenades and gunfire during Friday’s protests.`
More than half of those hurt were outside the Ofer military prison near the West Bank city of Ramallah, where hundreds of Palestinians are being held, Ayyad said.
An Israeli official has said three hunger strikers – Tareq Qaadan, Jafar Ezzedine and Ayman Sharawrna – were admitted to hospitals for protective check-ups.
“We moved them [to hospitals] because we want them examined to see if they are really alright,” Sivan Weizman, Israel Prisons Service spokeswoman, said, adding that she expected them to stay in hospitals until Saturday.
Qaadan and Ezzedine, accused of participating in activities of the Palestinian group Islamic Jihad, have been imprisoned without trial since November.
Sharawrna, an alleged Hamas activist involved in attacks on Israelis was, like the fourth hunger striker Samer Issawi, freed in the 2011 swap for Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit and later rearrested.
Protests across West Bank
Thousands of Palestinians protested on Friday across the West Bank, including about 2,000 in northern city of Nablus, where clashes erupted between dozens of youths and Israeli soldiers, close to the Huwara checkpoint, according to witnesses and AFP news agency journalists.
Another 2,000 protesters, some waving Palestinian flags, demonstrated at the Jalameh military checkpoint, outside the northern West Bank city of Jenin, where they clashed with Israeli soldiers, who fired tear gas and arrested 17 of them.
Protesting worshippers at the Al-Aqsa mosque compound in East Jerusalem, annexed by Israel, threw stones at riot police, who responded by firing stun grenades, Micky Rosenfeld, Israeli police spokesman, told AFP.
He said five Palestinians were arrested in the Issawiyeh district of the city, including four minors.
At a demonstration of solidarity with hunger-striking prisoners outside the Ofer prison, hundreds of Palestinian youths clashed with Israeli soldiers, an AFP photographer reported.
Hebron solidarity march
Also on Friday, in the southern West Bank city of Hebron, nearly 400 people marched in support of the prisoners and to demand the reopening of a road closed to Palestinians since the 1994 massacre of 29 Palestinians by a Jewish settler.
Israeli soldiers used stun grenades and tear gas to disperse them, and detained a photographer from the official Palestinian news agency WAFA, with four people wounded by live bullets, according to Palestinian security sources.
The fate of Palestinian prisoners, and in particular four who have been fasting on and off for months to demand their freedoms, has prompted protests across the Palestinian territories since the start of February and raised international concern.
Ban Ki-moon, UN secretary-general, said on Tuesday he was “deeply concerned” about the hunger strikers, singling out the case of Issawi, who was handed an eight-month jail term on Thursday for violating the terms of his release from a previous sentence.