The IDF and Border Police used tear gas and a bulldozer during the clashes which comes in the wake of the drive by shooting attack that killed two soldiers yesterday.
(photo credit: SETH J. FRANTZMAN)
Hamas failed to escalate tensions with Israel on Friday after a week of two drive-by shootings and widespread raids against Hamas activists in the West Bank. Clashes across the West Bank were relatively small, with hundreds participating and one Palestinian teen reported killed in Jalazone north of Ramallah. The IDF and Border police succeeded in dispersing rioters while Palestinian Security Forces also cracked down on pro-Hamas demonstrations.
On Thursday night the IDF launched an operation across the West Bank in response to the attack at Givat Asaf in which two soldiers were killed.
According to a statement the IDF apprehended 40 suspects, 37 of them known as Hamas activists. According to Palestinian media Hamas activists were detained in Hebron, Ramallah, Azariya and other areas. Hamas pushed for widespread disturbances across the West Bank, using social media to encourage an “explosion” in the West Bank. On Friday morning a Palestinian assailant attacked an IDF soldier at a military post in Beit El.
Hamas held rallies in Gaza to celebrate the 31st anniversary of its founding on Friday. It hoped to use these rallies to escalate tensions in the West Bank. This would gain it influence in negotiations with Fatah, the leading party in the Palestinian Authority, where it is trying to get an agreement that would end Hamas isolation in Gaza. The attacks this week were supposed to showcase Hamas power. However across the West Bank it was unable to gain a purchase through demonstrations or rallies. In the morning there were protests reported in Nablus and Tulkarem in which Hamas flags were seen. Palestinian Security forces clamped down on the rallies in Nablus and on a Hamas demonstration in Hebron. Women supporters of Hamas played a major role in Hebron, clashing with Palestinian police. Local media expressed shock that the Palestinian police used batons against Palestinian male and female demonstrators.
By the afternoon, after prayers let out, demonstrators gathered north of Al-Bireh on the road that leads to the DCO checkpoint and Beit El. This is a frequent gathering point for demonstrations by Palestinian youth. The young men pushed dumpsters and tires into the road and ignited them. Near Jalazone, a village and refugee camp, more young men lit tires. IDF forces and Border police monitored the gatherings as they grew. Black smoke billowed skyward. Eventually the IDF used tear gas to disperse around 100 demonstrators who had gathered. In other areas of the West Bank, including near Nablus, around Tekoa and at Nabi Saleh, similar scenes took place.
Around sunset a young Palestinian man in Jalazone was shot by live fire which Palestinian media blamed on the IDF. The victim, whose name was given as Mahmud Nakleh, was taken to hospital in Ramallah where he died. Video posted on Quds Media showed relatives gathered in Ramallah next to the body of the young man. Later in the evening around 9 pm Palestinian protesters gathered in Jalazone and clashed with Palestinian security forces as they tried to march toward Ramallah to pressure the Palestinian Authority to act. Al-Bireh and Ramallah announced a day of mourning on Saturday.
Pro-Hamas media has blamed the Palestinian Authority for not supporting the uprising, posting cartoons and asserting that Palestinian security forces in Hebron were unusually rough on Palestinian demonstrators. Anger in the West Bank against the Palestinian Authority continued on Friday night as demonstrators in Dheisheh refugee camp on the outskirts of Bethlehem gathered to protest the Palestinian authority’s security coordination with Israel. In addition further clashes were reported at Qalandiah checkpoint and in Isawiya in Jerusalem.
In the evening on Friday, the IDF said that it had stopped a car in the Abu-Snina neighborhood of Hebron and discovered an M-16 and Uzi. “The vehicle’s passengers were apprehended and transferred to security forces for further question.”
Overall, Friday’s clashes appeared less than expected after tensions rose all week. Hamas sought to use Friday, a day when protesters usually emerge after Friday prayers, to galvanize the Palestinian public. The Palestinian Authority reacted with force in several places to prevent the Hamas-supported demonstrations from gathering steam. Only several hundred Palestinians emerged to confront the IDF at usual flashpoints of friction, such as north of Ramallah.
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