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Clashes erupt at Palestinian protest to support hunger strikers

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RAMALLAH // Clashes erupted in the occupied West Bank on Thursday between Israeli soldiers and hundreds of Palestinians protesting in support of hunger strikers in Israeli jails.

At least two Palestinians were hit by rubber bullets and carried away on stretchers with bloodied legs.

Youths wearing hoods or masks threw stones at Israeli soldiers, who responded with rubber bullets and water canon containing foul-smelling liquid.

The clashes broke out at a checkpoint at the entrance to Ramallah and near the Israeli settlement of Beit El, the site of regular demonstrations against the occupation.

The protest was called in support of hundreds of Palestinian prisoners who have been on hunger strike in Israeli jails since April 17.

“We are entering an extremely critical period” for the hunger strikers, Qadura Fares, head of the Palestinian Prisoners Club, said earlier at a rally in Ramallah.

“A large number of prisoners can no longer move from their bed or take care of their basic needs.”

The clashes came as the Red Cross visited the leader of the hunger strike, Marwan Barghouti, for the first time since the strike began.

A spokesman for the International Committee of the Red Cross said it was unable to provide an update on his health “in accordance with the principles of medical confidentiality”.

Before Thursday, the ICRC had been allowed access to other prisoners on hunger strike, but Israel had restricted access to Barghouti.

Hunger strikers have issued a list of demands including better medical services, family visits and more dignified detention conditions.

Israel says conditions meet all international standards.

Barghouti, a senior member of Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah party and a highly popular figure among Palestinians, is serving five life sentences over his role in the second Palestinian intifada, or uprising.

Earlier this week, Israel produced footage they claimed showed Barghouti secretly breaking his fast in his cell.

But his wife, Fadwa, rejected the footage as fake, saying it was “intended to break the morale of prisoners”.

 

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