Shots Fired at Israeli Forces During West Bank Protest in Support of Escaped Prisoners

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A Palestinian youth following a rally in support of Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli jails, at the Hawara checkpoint near the West Bank town of Nablus, Wednesday.
A Palestinian youth following a rally in support of Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli jails, at the Hawara checkpoint near the West Bank town of Nablus, Wednesday.Credit: JAAFAR ASHTIYEH - AFP

Palestinian protesters opened fire at Israeli soldiers on Wednesday evening, during protests near Ramallah in support of the six Palestinian militants who escaped from an Israeli high-security prison. No casualties were reported, and the bullets hit the ground.

Around 500 Palestinians gathered at nightfall in the cities of Ramallah, Bethlehem, Hebron and other West Bank locations, some chanting "freedom" and waving Palestinian flags.

In some locations, they clashed with Israeli soldiers, such as at the Damascus Gate in Jerusalem, and Hawara, Hebron and near the Beit El checkpoint near El Bireh in the West Bank.

Ramallah, on Wednesday night.

The six fugitives – five from Islamic Jihad and one from Fatah – have been accused or convicted of planning or carrying out terror attacks against Israelis, including shootings, kidnappings and bombings. They escaped from Gilboa Prison early Monday morning. 

"We came out in solidarity with our prisoners in the occupier's jails," said Jihad Abu Adi, 25, as protesters nearby set tires ablaze. "It's the least we could do for our heroic prisoners."

The Israeli Prison Service said that in at least two jails, a few Palestinian prisoners had set fire to their cells. Inmates from Islamic Jihad have rioted as the Prison Service tried to disperse the militant group's inmates across Israel's jails on Wednesday. 

In a Wednesday meeting, senior security officials assessed that unrest within prisons may lead to an escalation in the Gaza Strip. If that were to happen, security officials believe that Israel's ability to search for the fugitives would be diminished, because forces and attention would have to be diverted to Gaza.

As the manhunt continues, the Israeli military announced it has decided to extend a closure of the West Bank. The closure, imposed regularly on Jewish holidays, was meant to expire on Wednesday night, but instead will continue until Saturday night.

Israel's defense agencies believe all six fugitives are still within Israel, and have not crossed into the West Bank or Jordan. Forces are searching the northern villages of Iksal and Salem in the Jezreel Valley for the escaped prisoners.

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