Palestinians, Israeli soldiers clash at protest held in support of detainee on hunger strike
JERUSALEM -- Palestinians clashed with Israeli soldiers on Friday at several demonstrations in the West Bank held to support a prisoner observing an intermittent hunger strike to protest his incarceration.
The Israeli military said about 500 Palestinians threw rocks and rolled burning tires at soldiers who responded with tear gas during the main rally outside Ofer prison in the West Bank. The protesters called for the release of Samer Issawi, who has been on an on-again, off-again hunger strike for several months as he serves time for alleged terror activity.
Protests spread to several other West Bank flashpoints which turned violent as well. Palestinian medics said they treated dozens of people for tear gas inhalation and minor wounds sustained from rubber bullets. Two Israeli soldiers were lightly injured, the military said.
The prisoner issue is an emotional one for Palestinians after decades of conflict with Israel. Palestinians generally view them as heroes, regardless of the reason for their imprisonment — even when their crimes have involved killing civilians. Last year hundreds of Palestinian prisoners used hunger strikes to seek concessions from Israel.
Issawi, 35, was initially released in 2011 in a prisoner exchange. One Israeli soldier was freed from captivity in Gaza in exchange for more than 1,000 Palestinian prisoners, many of whom were convicted of being involved in suicide bombings and other deadly attacks.
Some prisoners, like Issawi, were released on condition of travel limits. Israeli Prison Service spokeswoman Sivan Weizman said he was arrested after he violated the terms of his release. She said he was arrested for “terror activity” and sentenced to 26 years, but released in the 2011 prisoner swap after serving only six years.
Issawi is under medical supervision and eats periodically, she said.
Posted by: Steve White