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Daily protests rage for Gaza across the West Bank 

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Young men take cover behind cement blocks while holding rocks at the ready. (Photo: Sheren Khalel)

Young men take cover behind cement blocks while holding rocks at the ready. (Photo: Sheren Khalel)

(Editor’s Note: This report was filed before last night’s demonstration at the Qalandiya checkpoint.)

As the death toll rises by the hour in the besieged Gaza Strip, the rage in the occupied West Bank rises in tow. Protests have been growing in number and frequency across many West Bank cities including Bethlehem, Hebron, Jenin, Ramallah, Tulkarem and many more. Rocks from protesters and bullets from the IDF now regularly mix in the air every night, coupled with the sound of ambulance sirens racing injured protesters to the nearest hospital. Nightly reports of more young men and boys shot in their legs by rubber-coated-steel-bullets and live ammunition have become commonplace across the West Bank.

Mohammed Rabah, from Hebron, has been out on the streets every night protesting against Israel’s current assault on Gaza. Although the protests and subsequent clashes have been intense throughout the Hebron district and outlying areas, it has been the protests in the city-center that have been the most fervent. 

“People are on the streets every night everywhere, there are hundreds of people out in Hebron, but it’s really the most people in Bab-al-Zawyeh [the city-center]. It’s every night—I don’t see an end,” Rabah said. “We start with chants and shouting for Gaza, and then the soldiers will come out and fighting happens. They shoot [tear-gas], and sound grenades and bullets and we throw stones and Molotovs, it sounds like a war-zone here. Every night there is someone shot in the leg or the foot. They always shoot our legs.”

Young men chant at Ramallah's daytime protest in the city center. (Photo: Sheren Khalel)

Young men chant at Ramallah’s daytime protest in the city center. (Photo: Sheren Khalel)

Hebron is known for being a Hamas West Bank stronghold. On June 12th three Israeli teenager settlers went missing near the city and were found 18 days later, in a shallow grave near an outlying village. During Operation Brother’s Keeper, the Israeli military operation charged with finding the three Israelis, the focus was on Hebron and its Hamas supporters. Many speculate that the murder of the three teens had a great deal of influence in sparking the current operation in Gaza.

Rabah said he believed that because of this, the IDF is cracking down on Hebron protests more violently than in other West Bank cities. 

A young boy leads the beginning of the chants for Gaza while riding on a truck equipped with speakers.  (Photo: Sheren Khalel)

A young boy leads the beginning of the chants for Gaza while riding on a truck equipped with speakers. (Photo: Sheren Khalel)

Like Hebron, in the city of Bethlehem protests have been ongoing for three weeks, beginning first with anger over the murder of Mohammed Abu Khdeir, and then manifesting into anger over Israeli actions in Gaza. The protests have typically involved over 200 young men from the three refugee camps – Aida, Azza, and Dhesiheh – albeit in recent days many women have also been joining in. 

On Monday protest numbers topped 1000, with different political factions and civil society movements joining together in protest at what’s happening in Gaza and later in celebration of Hamas’ alleged capture of an IDF soldier.

Clashes across the West Bank have been long and dangerous, it’s common for three or more protestors to be shot with live ammunition in the legs every night at each demonstration, while dozens of teargas canisters are fired off in a matter of seconds at clashes. When an IDF jeep is deployed, protestors scatter into nearby alleyways, side streets, and homes immediately, as a jeep itself can shoot of 60 rounds of teargas in a row, leaving the streets completely engulfed in white clouds. On occasion protesters have passed out in the streets, having to be dragged inside nearby houses to be revived by the ever ready and present Red Crescent medics.

The IDF have not been the only problem facing the marches and protests in solidarity with Gaza however, the Palestinian Authority in full riot gear have also been attempting to put down the demonstrations.

Palestinian Athority Police clash with rioters while trying to put down the protests. They soon fled the area, and the protest continued in Bethlehem. (Photo: Sheren Khalel)

Palestinian Athority Police clash with rioters while trying to put down the protests. They soon fled the area, and the protest continued in Bethlehem. (Photo: Sheren Khalel)

Palestinian Authority steps in

“Now we are facing them [Palestinian Authority] and the Israelis,” said Ayman, a resident of Bethlehem who did not feel comfortable sharing his last name. “I know they want to come out here to arrest us, if it gets bad they will start catching people. The PA doesn’t stop us though, they can’t. We are not afraid of them. I can’t understand them. We are here fighting for Palestine, doing what we can to be with Gaza, and they want to work with the Israelis to put us down? I find it disgusting.”

The PA’s campaign to quell protests has largely been met with violence and resistance by protestors across the West Bank, who often throw rocks and Molotov cocktails directly at the PA who come out to dispel the youth. 

A PA police officer monitoring one of Bethlehem’s protests told Mondoweiss that the PA was just concerned for the safety of protestors.

“These kids keep getting shot. Go visit Beit Jala Hospital [the nearest hospital] and see, every night kids are there because they got hit with the tear gas canister or they suffocated from the gas, or god forbid they are shot,” the officer said. “We are looking out for them, for them to be safe. That’s all.” 

When asked whether there was any truth the implications that the PA was working with the IDF, the officer said that was “crazy” and that the PA is only looking out for its own citizens well-being. 

In Ramallah the PA have attempted to quell protests albeit they have been largely unsuccessful, as has been the case in Bethlehem. The PA may turn up in numbers, but they are vastly outnumbered by local protesters intent on showing their solidarity and one-ness with Palestinians in Gaza.

Protests more than clashes

While clashes in Ramallah generally happen near Qalandiya Checkpoint and Refugee Camp, peaceful marches have also taken place on a regular basis in Ramallah’s city center during the day. With people marching and holding signs that denounce Israel’s campaign in Gaza and encourage the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement. 

In the village of Bil’in, made famous by its popular resistance movement documented in Oscar nominated film Five Broken Cameras, protests have been inventive and poignant. On Friday, village residents dressed up as Gazans injured from Israeli airstrikes, with white clothes stained with red paint, during their march down to the Separation Wall.

As the Israeli bombing and shelling in Gaza continues, Ayman, Mohammed and their fellow demonstrators are defiant, saying they will continue to try and do their part on the streets of their respective cities. Although Ayman, like many others believe the protests and his role is symbolic more than anything, he still regards them as an important aspect of the resistance.

“I don’t think protesting helps so much, I don’t know what we can do that will help, but we should be doing something,” Ayman said. “We should be making sure that everyone knows that what is happening in Gaza is so wrong, and that we support Gaza.”

An elder leads daytime protests in Ramallah. (Photo: Sheren Khalel)

An elder leads daytime protests in Ramallah. (Photo: Sheren Khalel)

Sheren Khalel and Matthew Vickery
About Sheren Khalel and Matthew Vickery

Sheren Khalel is a freelance multimedia journalist who works out of Israel, Palestine and Jordan. You can follow her on Twitter at @Sherenk. Matthew Vickery is an independent multimedia journalist based in the Middle East with a focus on the Levant and Iraq. Follow Matthew on Twitter: @MMVickery

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12 Responses

  1. just
    just on July 25, 2014, 3:24 pm

    Thank you Sheren and Matthew– great reporting.

    (Fawaz Gerges (CNN) is slamming Israel for creating ‘facts’ on the ground….has some kudos for Kerry and Obama being the first to blame Israel for the breakdown of peace talks.

    He’s p.o. big time– he’s on fire and blasting Netanyahu and the right in Israel.

    He also says the Obama admin “does not have the nerve” to basically stand up to Netanyahu………..)

    • Kay24
      Kay24 on July 25, 2014, 4:32 pm

      I watched this with fascination. We hardly hear such comments in the zionist media.
      He was p.offed indeed. Spoke the truth, no one dares to here. Good for him. Perhaps being away from the US helps.
      If anyone can link this, it would be great. Worth watching.

  2. just
    just on July 25, 2014, 4:26 pm

    Oren just said that hundreds of Palestinians have ‘turned themselves in’ to Israel b/c Hamas is threatening to shoot them…he says it’s not been reported in the US media…oh and he mentioned again that the tunnels are built by child labor… it was also painful to see the dead Palestinians, but it is Hamas’ fault.

    so there.

    • Kay24
      Kay24 on July 25, 2014, 4:34 pm

      I did not want to listen, but they introduced his segment by saying he is asking the world to “give war a chance”, have you ever heard such nazi like bull? The nazios are getting out of control and more violent by the day.
      As if these zionist care that hundreds of civilians will die for their grand plan for war, and that thousands will be injured. What skunks.

      • ritzl
        ritzl on July 25, 2014, 4:43 pm

        The theme song for any “pro-Israel” rally. “All we are say-ing is give war a chance [again, and again, and again, and again].”

        I find it tragically ironic that, per the poll results, the over-50s that support this slaughter were probably the very ones singing “give peace a chance” during Viet Nam.

        Normal people will wise up. Per the same polls, they are wising up. The difference between the hype and the reality is too vast for reality to remained bottled up – though too many dead innocents in the meantime.

      • Kay24
        Kay24 on July 25, 2014, 4:47 pm

        It is depressing sometimes, when you expect common sense to prevail, you see people like Hillary Clinton come and show undying love for a terror state that right now is mowing the law in such a brutal way, and that right now children are blown apart, and yet not a peep about the bloodbath and lopsidedness of this massacre. These pro Israeli Americans are compromising their credibility and self respect, by supporting war criminals, that the rest of the world condemns. All this to be president.

      • Castellio
        Castellio on July 25, 2014, 4:59 pm

        Hillary et al support a deeply racist and expansionist state, compromising the historical principles of their own nation, and undermining the democratic values of their own communities.

        If Americans want a democracy. They will have to fight for it. It won’t be easy.

      • ritzl
        ritzl on July 25, 2014, 4:59 pm

        Agree, Kay. And Clinton is a perfect example of the tragic irony I mentioned. Didn’t she and Bill meet during anti-war protests?

        It IS depressing, but not over.

      • seafoid
        seafoid on July 25, 2014, 5:40 pm

        Hill will regurgitate whatever AIPAC ask. That is the price of power.

    • a blah chick
      a blah chick on July 25, 2014, 4:47 pm

      I don’t know how you all can subject yourselves to that drivel day after day and not have your minds turn to slush. However I do that you for going to that dark place so I don’t have to.

      As for Oren how the hell would he know how the tunnel got built? And this “reign of terror” he is alleging is it possible that these “hundreds” are Israeli spies trying to get out? That seems much more reasonable.

  3. Justpassingby
    Justpassingby on July 25, 2014, 4:56 pm

    they need to kick out Abbas that works with israel.

  4. a blah chick
    a blah chick on July 25, 2014, 5:47 pm

    And another thing…with so many mosques destroyed or damaged Gaza’s Christians have opened their churches to their Moslems compatriots. Isn’t that great? Did Oren mentioned that?

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