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Palestinians clash with IDF forces in support of prisoners

April 4, 2014 17:29

Security forces use crowd dispersal methods on stone-throwing rioters outside Ofer Prison near Ramallah; Palestinians report 13 wounded.


A Palestinian protester throws a Molotov cocktail towards a Border Police jeep during clashes outside the Ofer military prison near Ramallah, April 4, 2014.. (photo credit:REUTERS)

Palestinian protesters demonstrated in Bethlehem and Ramallah on Friday, calling for the release of Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli jails, as signs emerged that US patience with Middle East peace talks was running out.

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A small group of demonstrators held a sit-in at the main gate leading from Jerusalem to Bethlehem and chanted anti-Israel slogans before Israeli security forces approached while firing stun grenades and tear gas.

Another protest was held at the entrance of the Ofer Prison, located on the outskirts of Ramallah in Betunia.

Dozens of Palestinian rioters there threw stones toward the security forces who responded with riot control measures, firing tear gas, stun grenades and rubber coated bullets to disperse the crowds.

Israel Radio cited Palestinian reports as saying 13 Palestinian were wounded in the clashes.

West Bank rioting was also reported in Hebron, the Palestinian village of Kedum and Rachel's Tomb south of Jerusalem.

After months of talks that began last July, negotiations were catapulted into crisis at the weekend when Israel refused to act on a previously agreed release of a fourth batch of Palestinian prisoners unless it had assurances the Palestinians would continue talks beyond an initial end-April deadline.

In response, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas signed 15 international treaties to make clear he was ready to beat a unilateral path to world bodies unless he saw more movement from the Israelis.

A senior Palestinian official, Nabil Shaath, told Reuters that Abbas had not intended to upset the US mediators but rather to shine a spotlight on Israel's failure to release the prisoners.

Speaking during a visit to Morocco on Friday, US Secretary of State John Kerry said there was a limit to US efforts if the parties themselves were unwilling to move forward.

The talks have struggled from the start, stalling over Palestinian opposition to Israel's demand that it be recognized as a Jewish state, and over the issue of fast-growing Israeli settlements in the  West Bank and east Jerusalem.

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