Demonstrations quickly deteriorated into riots Friday as clashes between IDF soldiers and Palestinian Arab protesters played out throughout the West Bank and in Jerusalem, making real threats made by PA officials that violence would break out if Israel didn’t release several hunger striking convicts from its prisons.
Following Friday prayers at the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, Palestinian Arabs began hurling stones at security forces at the Old City’s Mughrabi Gate, with Israeli forces using stun grenades to disperse the rioters.
In Hebron nearly a thousand protesters marched in and around the city, Israel’s Channel 10 reported, with hundreds throwing rocks at policeman and into the Jewish enclave, Beit Hadassa.
Near Ramallah Hundreds of Palestinian Arabs protested at the Bituniyeh Checkpoint, near Ofer Prison, where the hunger strikers were being held.
In Nabi Saleh, also near Ramallah, security forces used live fire to disperse protesters.
Ahead of the demonstrations, Israel security services increased their alert level, Army Radio reported.
On Tuesday Kadoura Fares, the head of the Palestinian Prisoners Club, a nongovernmental organization dealing with prisoners’ rights, warned that emotions could flare out of control. “Sometimes the fire starts out small and expands to a large inferno,” he said. “If one of the prisoners dies, spirits will flare, Israeli soldiers will shoot at demonstrators, and things will get out of hand.”
Administrative detainee Samer Issawi was sentenced Thursday to eight months in prison for illegally entering the West Bank, thus breaking the terms of his release in the Gilad Shalit prisoner exchange. Issawi’s crimes specifically include opening fire with an AK-47 at an Israeli bus, firing at an Israeli car, and manufacturing pipe bombs used in terror attacks.
Another administrative detainee on hunger strike, Jafar Azzidine, was taken to Assaf Harofeh Medical Center overnight Friday, after complaining of sickness. In addition, Ayman Sharawna, also on a hunger strike, was hospitalized at Soroka University Medical Center in Beersheba. The fourth detainee on a hunger strike, Tarik Hussein, was also admitted to Assaf Harofeh Medical Center on Friday. Sharawna also broke the terms of the Shalit prisoner exchange deal while Azzidine and Hussein are both from Arabe near Jenin and are senior Palestinian Islamic Jihad operatives.
Last week the Palestinian Authority minister of prisoner affairs, Issa Qaraqe, warned that if any of the prisoners were to die, violence could escalate considerably.
“If, God forbid, any prisoner dies of hunger strike inside the prison, the situation on the ground will deteriorate,” Qaraqe said. “People won’t stand for any prisoner to die of a hunger strike.”