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Israeli forces suppress rally in support of hunger-striking prisoners

Palestinian protesters wave their national flag and portraits of prominent prisoner Marwan Barghouti during a demonstration in solidarity with Palestinian prisoners on hunger strike in Israeli jails, in front of the Israeli-run Ofer prison in the West Bank city of Betunia on April 20, 2017. (Photo by AFP)

At least one Palestinian man has sustained gunshot wounds and several others suffered tear gas inhalation after skirmishes broke out between Israeli forces and demonstrators holding a rally in support of hunger-striking Palestinian prisoners.

Local sources, speaking on condition of anonymity, said dozens of Palestinians had converged outside the Israeli-run Ofer prison near the occupied West Bank city of Beitunia on Thursday to express solidarity with the Palestinian inmates on hunger strike in Israeli jails.

Israeli military forces then intervened and fired rubber-steel bullets and teargas canisters to disperse the crowd. A protester was shot and injured during the conflict. The area was partially covered with a cloud of smoke, causing several demonstrators to cough and wheeze. 

The rally came as some 1,500 prisoners from all Palestinian political factions are taking part in an open-ended hunger strike in protest at harsh prison conditions and restrictions on family visits.

On April 13, the London-based prominent rights group Amnesty International called on the Tel Aviv regime to end “unlawful and cruel” policies towards the Palestinian prisoners.

“Israel's ruthless policy of holding Palestinian prisoners arrested in the Occupied Palestinian Territories in prisons … is a flagrant violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention,” said Magdalena Mughrabi, Deputy Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa at Amnesty International.

“It is unlawful and cruel and the consequences for the imprisoned person and their loved ones, who are often deprived from seeing them for months, and at times for years on end, can be devastating,” Mughrabi added.

Meanwhile, clashes between Palestinian protesters and Israeli troopers near the al-Quds University campus in Abu Dis town have left one Palestinian injured.

Israeli military forces had raided the town in the early hours of Thursday, deploying dozens of troops in its streets and neighborhoods.

Palestinian protesters hurl stones towards Israeli forces during clashes following a demonstration in solidarity with Palestinian prisoners on hunger strike in Israeli jails, in front of the Israeli-run Ofer prison in the West Bank city of Betunia on April 20, 2017. (Photo by AFP)

The forces reportedly stopped and inspected Palestinian students on their way to the university, triggering clashes.  

The Palestine Red Crescent Society announced that one Palestinian had been hit and injured with a rubber-coated steel bullet, while 11 others had suffered tear gas inhalation. A Palestinian protester was detained as well.

The occupied Palestinian territories have witnessed new tensions ever since Israeli forces introduced restrictions on the entry of Palestinian worshipers into the al-Aqsa Mosque compound in East Jerusalem al-Quds in August 2015.

More than 300 Palestinians have lost their lives at the hands of Israeli forces in the tensions since the beginning of October 2015.

The Tel Aviv regime has tried to change the demographic makeup of Jerusalem al-Quds over the past decades by constructing illegal settlements, destroying historical sites and expelling the local Palestinian population. Palestinians say the Israeli measures are aimed at paving the way for the Judaization of the city.

The al-Aqsa Mosque compound is a flashpoint Islamic site, which is also holy to Jews. The mosque is Islam’s third holiest site after Mecca and Medina in Saudi Arabia.

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