Clashes erupted across the occupied West Bank on Wednesday after marches to mark the 11th anniversary of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat’s death, with at least 70 Palestinians shot and injured by Israeli forces.
Large rallies were held in Hebron, Ramallah, Bethlehem, and other West Bank cities to commemorate the late president’s death in 2004, with crowds of people waving Palestinian flags and carrying portraits of Arafat.
In Ramallah’s al-Bireh city, Israeli forces shot and injured more than 70 Palestinian youths with live fire and rubber-coated steel bullets during clashes in the al-Balou area in northern al-Bireh.
One protester, shot in the chest with live fire, is in a critical condition. Medical sources said that the youth underwent surgery in the Ramallah Governmental Hospital where his condition was reported as “very critical.”
Other injuries were reported as light to moderate, with medics and journalists also injured during the clashes.
Sources added that Israeli forces used silencers when shooting off live fire at the protesters.
An Israeli soldier was injured in the face by a Molotov cocktail and taken to hospital for treatment.
An Israeli army spokesperson said there was a violent riot of “hundreds of Palestinians” and that after Israeli forces called for protesters to halt, they shot live fire, confirming hits. The spokesperson could not relay how many hits were confirmed.
In Qalandiya refugee camp in Ramallah, Israeli forces shot and injured at least 13 Palestinians with live fire, residents and medics said.
The Palestinian Ministry of Health told Ma’an that the injured were transferred to the Palestinian Medical Complex in Ramallah.
An Israeli army spokesperson told Ma’an that Israeli forces entered the camp in the early morning during “routine activity,” in order to “arrest suspects involved in illegal activity.”
In Bethlehem, south of Ramallah, two Palestinian youth were injured with rubber-coated steel bullets and dozens of others suffered from severe tear-gas inhalation during clashes with Israeli forces near the city’s northern entrance.
Clashes erupted following a peaceful march that set off in commemoration for the 11th anniversary of death of Yasser Arafat.
Hundreds of Palestinians from different formal and popular institutions, schools and universities from the Bethlehem district took part in the march.
In northwest Hebron, Israeli forces opened live fire at a student’s march in the town of Beit Ummar, Muhammad Ayyad Awad, spokesperson of a local popular committee said.
Awad said that Israeli forces suppressed a student march with live and rubber-coated steel bullets, as well as copious amounts of tear gas.
Awad added that Israeli forces placed additional cement blocks at the northern entrance of Beit Ummar and prevented cars from entering the town on Wednesday.
Arafat died in France on November 11 2004 at the age of 75, but doctors were unable to specify the cause of death. No autopsy was carried out at the time, in line with his widow’s request.
His remains were exhumed in November 2012 and samples were taken, partly to investigate whether he had been poisoned — a suspicion that grew after the assassination of Russian ex-spy and Kremlin critic Alexander Litvinenko in 2006.
he investigation has yet to announce a concrete cause of death.