Palestinians report dozens wounded in clashes with Israeli security forces Tuesday as the Palestinian Authority holds a 'day of rage' in protest of U.S. Secretary State Mike Pompeo's declaration that Israeli settlements do not contravene international law.
The Palestinian Red Crescent reported that medical teams were treating a Palestinian who was wounded in clashes with Israeli troops in Jerusalem's Old City.
In addition, a Palestinian man was shot with in his thigh with a rubber bullet at the northern entrance to the West Bank city of al-Bira. He received first aid at the scene and was transferred in moderate condition to a hospital in Ramallah.
The Red Crescent says 63 Palestinians throughout the West Bank have received first aid at the scene, most of them for smoke inhalation and rubber bullet wounds, suffering light injuries. More than half, 33, are located in al-Bira, 15 in Bethlehem, 13 in Abu Dis, one in Hebron and one in Tulkarem.
Another 14 Palestinians were treated for smoke inhalation at the Huwwara checkpoint near Nablus, the Red Crescent said.
The Ministry of Health in Ramallah reported that two have been transferred to hospitals in Hebron for rubber bullet wounds. Five patients are being treated in Ramallah for rubber bullet wounds, three for smoke inhalation and one for shock.
Protesters began marching in several points of friction with Israeli security forces like Bethlehem, Tulkarm, Qalqilya and Abu Dis. Hundreds of demonstrators are taking part in the marches, including senior Fatah officials.
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Schools were shut early at 11:30 A.M., to allow students and parents to attend the protests.
The army instructed troops on the ground to show maximum restraint in order to avoid fatalities.
Tuesday morning, a Palestinian security prisoner affiliated with Fatah, Sami Abu Diak, died of cancer while serving three life sentences for murdering three Israeli citizens near the West Bank Palestinian city of Jenin at the beginning of the second intifada.
The Palestinian Liberation Organization issued a statement that "Sami is the newest victim of Israel's reprehensible policy of medical negligence against Palestinian prisoners."
The Palestinian Prisoners' Administration called in recent months to release Abu Diak due to his medical condition, and claimed that Israel Prison Service is not providing him with adequate medical attention. Abu Diak's death may have increased tension ahead of the demonstrations.
The administration announced that security prisoners had decided to launch a three-day hunger strike, protesting the circumstances that led to Abu Diak's death.
The PA leadership, including the Fatah central committee and the PLO announced their decision to hold a day of protests Monday, following several days of discussion on how to react to the American move. It remains unclear whether Hamas will join the move and organize protests in Gaza as well.
The PA condemned the U.S. declaration immediately after Pompeo announced last Monday that the U.S. is softening its position on the settlements. However, criticism arose in Palestinian social media circles that the reaction was too muted, consisting of just a statement.
Mahmoud al-Aloul, vice-chairman of the Fatah, told the Voice of Palestine that an action plan had been formed to intensify the protest and “contend with the incessant violations of the occupation." In parallel with political activity, which will include urging other countries to protest the American policy change, there will be a “policy of confronting the occupation’s authorities and settlers in all areas.”
“You don’t need to be a genius to read the political map,” a Fatah activist told Haaretz. "The situation in Israel is very fluid and sensitive. Internal political considerations in both Israel and the U.S. motivate statements or actions that mainly target Palestinians as the weak link." However, he added, the Palestinian leadership has no intention of tearing down the house.
More than 100 Democratic members of Congress signed a letter against the Trump administration’s decision to no longer define Israeli settlements in the West Bank as illegal under international law. The letter, made public on Friday, warned that the administration’s new policy “has undermined America’s moral standing” and made it more difficult to reach an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement.
Responding to questions following his remarks last Monday, Pompeo insisted this was the result of a legal analysis and review process, and rejected the notion that it was linked to domestic politics in either Israel or the U.S.
Pompeo also said that the previous American position of viewing settlements as illegal "did not advance peace."