Seven Palestinians were struck by rubber-coated steel bullets on Thursday afternoon during clashes between Israeli soldiers and students from Birzeit University which took place near Israel’s Ofer detention center west of Ramallah.
Sources at Birzeit University told Ma’an that the Student Union suspended classes in the morning and organized a large rally in the center of campus opposing Israeli attempts to divide the Al-Aqsa compound in Jerusalem into Jewish and Muslim sections.
Following the rally, students left campus in buses and headed to Ofer detention center near the town of Beitunia.
Shortly after the rally began, Israeli forces opened fire on the students with tear gas canisters, and the students began hurling stones at the soldiers in response.
The students then ran away and took positions on hilltops around the detention center, before Israeli soldiers started to fire live ammunition and rubber-coated bullets at them, injuring seven.
An Israeli military spokeswoman, however, denied that soldiers had opened fire on the students, insisting that they had merely used unspecified “riot dispersal means.”
“There was a riot of about 150 rioters who hurled rocks and Molotov cocktails and burning tires,” she said, adding that the incident had lasted several hours.
Tensions have been high across the West Bank and Jerusalem in recent weeks, amid an uptick in Israeli violence against Palestinian citizens spurred on by a series of hit-and-run attacks involving Palestinian drivers.
They have also been stoked by Israeli authorities’ decision to hold a vote on splitting the Al-Aqsa compound – Islam’s third-holiest site — despite the existence of a Jewish prayer area at the Western Wall immediately next door.
The tensions follow months of Israeli pressure on the region, including through a massive arrest campaign and a major military offensive that left more than 2,100 dead and provoked outrage across Palestine.