‘WE as Palestinians are ready to fight!’ Hamas leader Salah al-Bardawil said as both the West Bank and the besieged Gaza Strip erupted into fierce clashes with Israeli soldiers yesterday in response to US president Trump’s announcement to move the US embassy to Jerusalem.
A general strike swept the West Bank, and the Palestinian working class joined the mass demonstrations on the streets. Deadly clashes took place between youth and Israeli military police and soldiers. In the West Bank cities of Hebron and Al-Bireh, thousands of demonstrators were rallying with chants of ‘Jerusalem is the capital of the State of Palestine!’
Hamas leader Salah al-Bardawil called US president Trump’s decision a ‘declaration of war,’ adding that ‘what the US administration is planning to do is the stupidest decision they made in their history, because they are harming the Palestinians’ soul and faith, in an attempt to drag them into a very dangerous confrontation.’
Ismail Haniyeh, the leader of Hamas had called for a ‘day of rage’ to take place today and said it should ‘be the first day of the intifada against the occupier’. Israel deployed hundreds of extra troops in the occupied West Bank, with battalions of military police, armoured jeeps backed up with army personnel.
Palestinian youth armed with stones and slingshots made burning barricades out of tyres. Thick black smoke billowed out from the barricades mixing with the tear gas fired by the Israeli soldiers. Israeli soldiers fired steel coated rubber bullets and volley after volley of tear gas.
It was at this point that the Israeli soldiers began firing live rounds. In the chaos which ensued, seventeen Palestinians were injured, medics reported. During the course of the day nine protesters were hit by live fire and over 50 others injured; another aged just 14 years old was hit by rubber bullets, medics said.
An Israeli military spokeswoman said soldiers had used ‘riot-dispersal gear’ against the protesters. In the Gaza Strip, dozens of protesters gathered near the border fence with Israel and threw stones at soldiers on the other side. Two protesters were wounded by live fire, one was in a critical condition, medics said.