Several Palestinians killed by Israeli fire in West Bank protests

Israeli forces injure more than 500 Palestinians in wave of West Bank protests against Israel’s bombardment of Gaza.

Beit El, Occupied West Bank – Israeli security forces have killed 11 Palestinians across the occupied West Bank, as multiple protests erupted amid growing anger over Israel’s intensifying aerial bombardment in Gaza and the threat of forced expulsion of Palestinians from their homes in East Jerusalem.

The Palestinian health ministry said 10 Palestinians were killed by Israeli forces during protests across the occupied West Bank on Friday, and another was killed during an attempt to stab an Israeli soldier near an illegal Israeli settlement in Yabad near Jenin.

Following Friday prayers, thousands of Palestinians protested in more than 200 locations across the West Bank. More than 500 Palestinians were injured across the territory, with protesters hit by Israeli bullets, tear gas and live fire, the Palestine Red Crescent Society said.

Hundreds of Palestinians in Jordan also tried to mass on Jordan’s border with Israel on Friday but were stopped by Jordanian security forces, while Palestinians in southern Lebanon tried to breach the border with Israel.

The protests come amid an escalation in days of fighting between Israel and Hamas, which rules the Gaza Strip. Israel unleashed more barrages of air strikes and tank fire on the Gaza Strip on Friday, while Palestinian armed groups continued to launch rockets into Israel from the besieged coastal enclave.

At the Beit El checkpoint in al-Bireh, near Ramallah in the occupied West Bank, hundreds of Palestinians from rival political factions of Hamas, Fatah and the left-wing Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) marched together – alongside those with no political affiliation – chanting in support of Gaza and Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem.

The sound of Israeli live gunfire and rubber-coated steel bullets cracked in the air as ambulances raced back and forth carrying the wounded, while plumes of smoke billowed into the air from tyres set alight by protesters.

Malak Abu Rab from Ramallah told Al Jazeera she was taking part in the march together with her daughter, Tuleen 13, and her son Jad, 10, to support those being killed in Gaza, as well as Palestinians in East Jerusalem threatened with expulsion from Sheikh Jarrah and the hundreds injured in recent Israeli police raids on the city’s Al-Aqsa Mosque.

“In Jerusalem, Israeli settlers, supported by soldiers, are trying to drive people from their homes, a behaviour that Israel has engaged in for decades, and it’s time to stop this,” she said.

“Palestinians are speaking the same language over these issues and their feelings are the same.”

Fighting intensifies

The deaths on Friday took the total number of Palestinians killed by Israeli fire in confrontations in the West Bank to at least 13 since Monday, when Israel launched air raids on the besieged Gaza Strip in response to Hamas rocket attacks.

Gaza’s health ministry says at least 126 Palestinians, including 31 children, have been killed and more than 900 wounded in the enclave since the latest round of violence began.

The Israeli military has launched more than 600 air strikes on the enclave in recent days and has massed troops and tanks near Gaza as the fighting has intensified.

At least seven people in Israel have been killed in the more than 2,000 rocket attacks launched by armed groups in Gaza since Monday.

Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu pledged the Gaza offensive will continue “as needed to restore calm in the state of Israel”, despite international calls for an immediate halt of all hostilities.

The latest escalation in violence followed weeks of tensions in occupied East Jerusalem over a now-postponed court hearing relating to the forced expulsion of several Palestinian families from their homes in the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood to make way for Israeli settlers.

Tension in the city also spread to the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, which Israeli forces raided on three consecutive days during the final week of Ramadan, firing tear gas and stun grenades at worshippers inside the mosque and injuring hundreds.

At Beit El, banker Salama Khalil, 42, said he was taking part in the protest with his son Saji, 13, to show solidarity with people in Gaza against the “terrorism perpetrated by the Israeli military on Palestinians”.

“The stupidity of the Israelis in trying to evict Palestinians from their homes in Sheikh Jarrah and their repeated invasions in Al-Aqsa have successfully united Palestinians from inside Israel and Gaza, to West Bank, to Jordan to Lebanon and even internationally,” he said.

“There is a strong possibility that we are heading for a third Intifada if there is no hope and no peace process,” he added.

“The Palestinians are not going to disappear.”