Palestinians take on ‘Salt Water Challenge’ to draw attention to plight of more than 1,500 prisoners on hunger strike.
Ramallah, West Bank – At least 50 Palestinian protesters were injured in clashes with Israeli forces on a “day of rage” held across the occupied Palestinian territories to show solidarity with more than 1,500 prisoners on hunger strike in Israeli prisons.
The majority of injuries resulted from tear gas inhalation, while some protesters were shot with live or rubber bullets, a ministry spokesperson told Al Jazeera.
Director of Ramallah Hospital Ahmad Bitawi said more than 20 people were injured. He said most were leg injuries and not life threatening.
The “day of rage” was called for by Fatah, the political party of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, and the national committee to support the prisoners’ hunger strike.
In a statement issued last week, Fatah said the “excessive” practices of the Israeli occupation, particularly by the Israeli Prison Service, meant Palestinians should “clash with the occupier everywhere across our homeland”.
On Friday, Palestinians across the occupied West Bank gathered at the solidarity tents set up before proceeding to nearby military checkpoints.
On a hillside overlooking the entrance to Ofer prison, where a number of the hunger-striking prisoners are detained, dozens of young men hurled stones at Israeli military vehicles.
Israeli forces responded with volleys of tear gas and rubber bullets, while the occasional live round was heard.
“I know that by being here you are not directly helping the prisoners but you are helping a little bit,” 26-year-old Anas Salous, who did not participate in the protests, told Al Jazeera.
“I can’t accept being at home and doing nothing. Unless we support them and show up, nothing will happen. It is better to come here than just giving it a Facebook like.
“I was a prisoner in the past. At the end of the day, it is their own fight. I know they have no power and that they are fighting with their bodies. They have the right to use their bodies. Using their bodies as a weapon, this is the last chance they have.”
Clashes also erupted in towns and villages across the West Bank where protesters threw stones at Israeli forces, who responded with a variety of crowd control weapons and live fire, according to local media.
Palestinian prisoners began a hunger strike on April 17 in protest over conditions in Israeli prisons, calling for more family visits, better medical attention and an end to torture and administrative detention – imprisonment without charge or trial.
Around 6,500 Palestinians are currently being held in Israeli prisons, 500 of whom are held under administrative detention.
The mass prisoner hunger strike was organised by Marwan Barghouti, a senior Fatah figure who is serving multiple life terms in an Israeli prison for his role in killing Israelis during the second intifada.
The “day of rage” followed a general strike that shuttered businesses, schools, government institutions and public transport across the occupied Palestinian territories on Thursday.
A number of clashes broke out between Palestinians and Israeli forces on Thursday, local media reported.