RAMALLAH (Palestinian Territories), May 12 — Clashes erupted in the occupied West Bank yesterday between Israeli soldiers and hundreds of Palestinians protesting in support of hunger strikers in Israeli jails.
At least two Palestinians were wounded by rubber bullets and evacuated on stretchers with bloodied legs, an AFP journalist reported.
Youths wearing hoods or masks threw stones at Israeli soldiers, who responded with rubber bullets and water cannon containing foul-smelling liquid.
The clashes broke out at a major checkpoint at the entrance to Ramallah and another near the Israeli settlement of Beit El, the site of regular demonstrations against Israel’s 50-year occupation of the West Bank.
The protest was called in support of hundreds of Palestinian prisoners on hunger strike in Israeli jails since April 17.
“We are entering an extremely critical period” for the hunger strikers, Qadura Fares, head of the Palestinian Prisoners Club, said earlier at a rally in Ramallah.
“A large number of prisoners can no longer move from their bed or take care of their basic needs.”
The Red Cross visited the strike’s leader, Marwan Barghouti, yesterday for the first time since the protest began.
An ICRC spokesman was unable to provide an update on his health “in accordance with the principles of medical confidentiality”.
The ICRC had previously been allowed access to other prisoners on hunger strike, but Israel had restricted access to Barghouti.
Hunger strikers have issued a list of demands including better medical services, family visits and more dignified conditions in detention.
Israel says its prisons meet international standards.
Barghouti, a senior member of Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas’s Fatah party and a highly popular figure among Palestinians, is serving five life sentences over his role in the second Palestinian intifada, or uprising.
Earlier this week, Israel produced footage it said showed him secretly breaking his fast in his cell.
His wife Fadwa rejected the footage as fake, saying it was “intended to break the morale of prisoners”.
Yesterday, a legal defence organisation said the filming and distribution of the video was illegal and a violation of the right to dignity and privacy.
The organisation, Adalah, called for a criminal investigation. — AFP