Palestinians marched Thursday morning from the West Bank village of Bituniya to Ofer Prison in protest against the continued administrative detention of four Palestinians who are on a hunger strike.
Several hundred demonstrators waving Fatah flags advanced toward the Bituniya checkpoint. Ofer Prison is located just beyond the checkpoint.
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An Israeli journalist sustained light injuries to his head when Palestinian teens clashed with security forces at around noon, shortly before the march. It remains unclear whether the journalist was hit by a rock or by non-lethal riot dispersal means used by security forces. He was evacuated to a hospital. Later, another Israeli journalist was lightly hurt when a rock struck him. He was treated at the scene. A number of Palestinians were also injured.
Palestinian protester (Photo: Reuters)
Two of the hunger-striking prisoners, Samer Issawi and Ayman Sharawneh, are among 14 Palestinians who have been re-arrested by Israel since being released in 2011 in exchange for Gilad Shalit, the IDF soldier who was abducted on the Gaza border by Hamas, the Islamist terrorist group that now rules the enclave.
Clashes between security forces and Palestinians demanding the release of the detainees take place almost daily. The most violent demonstration was held last Friday in Bituniya.
Preparations for protest near Bituniya, Thursday (Photo: Roee Idan)
Palestinian Parliament Member Mustafa Barghouti, one of the leaders of the protests, told Ynet that "the atmosphere in the West Bank is even more tense" than it was during last year's campaign for the release of Islamic Jihad operative Khader Adnan, who refused food for 66 days in protest of his administrative detention in Israel. He was released last April as part of a deal between his attorneys and the State Prosecution and due to mounting Palestinian public pressure.
Palestinian protesters outside courthouse (Photo: AFP)
"The protests on Friday were similar to protests held during the first intifada. Should anything bad happen to Issawi, I predict that the entire West Bank will rise up and a new, non-violent intifada will break out," Barghouti warned.
Issawi led to court for remand hearing (Photo: Reuters)
Adnan launched his own hunger strike a few days ago at the Red Cross headquarters in Ramallah in solidarity with the detainees. He said he wants to convey a message to the international community in protest of its silence vis-à-vis the prisoners' hunger strike.
Meanwhile, Hamas Politburo Chief Khaled Mashaal phoned Sharawneh's family this week and promised that the matter would be resolved in the coming days. Issawi's father told Ynet that despite growing international pressure he is not optimistic as to the chances of his son's release.
"My son is a human being before he is an Arab or anything else. The three monotheistic religions are very strict when it comes to preserving human life – but Israel isn't, and thus it violates Jewish law," Tarek Issawi said.
You can contact Elior Levy, Ynet's Palestinian Affairs Correspondent, at: firstname.lastname@example.org