The largest protests in years erupted in the occupied West Bank over Israel’s offensive in the Gaza Strip, as the Israeli military continued to batter the besieged enclave with air strikes and the death toll topped 800.
Two protesters were killed and scores of others injured on Thursday in the clashes with the Israeli police in Ramallah city, just north of Jerusalem, according to medics.
More demonstrations have been called for by Palestinian factions on Friday, prompting the Israeli army to impose strict security measures in East Jerusalem.
Protests on Thursday were also held Nablus, Bethlehem and several Jerusalem neighbourhoods.
Doctors at Ramallah Hospital said they had received dozens of live-fire victims and appealed for blood donors.
The Israeli military confirmed troops had used “riot dispersal means” against protesters who threw stones and firebombs at them and blocked a road with burning tyres.
By overnight Friday, parts of the main road between Ramallah and Jerusalem was “carpeted with stones that mostly young Palestinians threw at Israeli forces,” Al Jazeera’s Dalia Hatuqa, reporting from Ramallah, said.
Both Palestinian activists and Israel Radio said the protest appeared to be the largest since the end of a 2000-2005 Palestinian uprising.
The rallies came as Palestinian anger at Israel mounted over the growing number of civilian casualties in the Gaza Strip.
“In the West Bank, we need to take our resistance efforts to a higher level,” Na’el Halabi, a student at Birzeit University, told Al Jazeera in Ramallah. “Gaza is not alone: we are part of the same struggle.”
UN shelter hit
On Thursday alone, at least 119 people were killed in Israeli bombardment on the Gaza Strip. With more deaths announced by the health ministry on Friday, the total toll of Palestinians killed since July 8 reached 828.
An Israeli soldier was also killed on Friday, taking the army’s losses in the operation to 33, a statement said. Rockets fired from Gaza into Israel have killed two Israeli civilians and a Thai migrant worker.
Israel maintains that its offensive is targeting Hamas fighters in Gaza and a network of underground tunnels which they say are used to attack their troops and civilians. But most of those killed in Gaza were civilians, including scores of children.
At least 16 Palestinians died after a UN facility in Gaza sheltering displaced people was hit on Thursday.
UN chief Ban Ki-moon said he was “appalled” at the incident which “underscores the imperative for the killing to stop – and to stop now”.
Washington said it was “deeply saddened and concerned about the tragic incident”, without explicitly blaming its ally Israel for the shelling.
US Secretary of State John Kerry was in Cairo for a second time in 48 hours trying to broker an end to the bloodshed.
His efforts were focused on a week-long humanitarian ceasefire, during which intensive negotiations will tackle the blockade of Gaza and other disputes.
Hamas, which has fired hundreds of rockets at Israel during the Israeli offensive on Gaza, earlier rejected an Egyptian proposal.
The Palestinian group said any truce must include a guaranteed end to Israel’s eight-year blockade on the Gaza Strip.
Israel public radio reported that the country’s security cabinet was expected to meet on Friday to discuss US proposals for a Gaza ceasefire given to Israel and Hamas.
“If Hamas accepts the American proposal it is not impossible that there could be an Israeli decision to accept it also,” public radio quoted an unnamed senior Israeli source as saying.
Israeli paper Haaretz quoted a senior Israeli official as saying that Kerry had drafted a new ceasefire proposal and presented it to both sides.
“International efforts to achieve a ceasefire in the Gaza Strip are approaching the critical point,” the report read.
There was no official confirmation. Israel traditionally does not comment on security cabinet sessions or acknowledge that they take place.