Thousands of Palestinians rallied Monday against Israel's planned annexation of areas of the West Bank in a mass protest organized by the Fatah political party.
In the protest were Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh, Nickolay Mladenov, the United Nations’s Middle East envoy, Arab and other foreign diplomats, including the ambassadors of the European Union, China, Russia and Jordan.
"The annexation plan violates international law and destroys the dream of a Palestinian state," said Mladenov at the rally, urging the international community to save the peace process and begin negotiations for a Palestinian state.
Also present was the mother of Eyad Hallaq, an autistic Palestinian who was shot dead by Israeli police in Jerusalem last month. Hallaq's mother said she stands before the crowd as a representative of all the mothers of killed Palestinians, and called for a unified front against annexation.
Palestinian activists said the Israeli army had erected checkpoints en route to Jericho, was questioning drivers about their destinations and preventing busses from arriving at the rally. The Israeli army confirmed that it prevented several buses from reaching the protest, in accordance with "a continuous evaluation of the situation."
The Palestinian Red Crescent said it treated eight people who were injured by gas inhalation and rubber bullets during clashes with the Israeli army at the entrance to Jericho.
Members of Fatah view the success of the protest as a leadership test for the Palestinian Authority. A member of Fatah’s Central Committee, Jibril Rajoub, called on Sunday during a press conference in Ramallah for the Palestinian public to demonstrate against the occupation.
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“There is a Palestinian consensus about the popular struggle at this stage, and we are prepared to move on to other stages should there be support to do so,” Rajoub said without detailing what the coming stages are. “If there will be annexation, we won’t suffer alone and we won’t die alone.”
“Today we are in favor of a popular struggle, but if there will be annexation, the tools of opposition will change as long as there is support and consensus. We are assuming that there will be annexation and that Netanyahu is going for it. We will maintain the popular struggle until we reach the next stage, and we will be the spearhead within it,” added Rajoub.
Fatah’s central committee decided to hold the protest over the weekend when it met to discuss, among other things, the failure to recruit the Palestinian public to show their support for the anti-annexation movement.