Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Thousands of Palestinians Protest in West Bank

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Thousands of Palestinians Protest in West Bank

Article excerpt

JERUSALEM Thousands of outraged Palestinians took to the streets of the West Bank on Thursday, joining funeral processions and demonstrations after two protesters were killed by Israeli troops and a Palestinian prisoner died of cancer in Israeli custody.

The unrest clouded a coming visit by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and underscored the difficult task he faces as he tries to restart peace talks in the coming months.

The demonstrations were among the largest in the West Bank in months, and came amid rising violence. But officials on both sides urged calm, and by nightfall, the situation appeared to be quieting down.

Israeli troops had been on heightened alert since Maysara Abu Hamdiyeh, 64, a prisoner, died Tuesday from throat cancer. The Palestinians have blamed Israel for not giving him proper treatment.

Tensions rose further Wednesday when two Palestinian youths were killed in the northern West Bank after throwing firebombs toward Israeli troops. In an apparent show of solidarity with Abu Hamdiyeh, militants in the Gaza Strip fired rockets into Israel for three straight days, drawing Israeli retaliation, in the greatest challenge yet to a cease-fire reached in November.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said Israel was responsible for the violence, claiming it was trying to divert attention from a four-year standstill in peace efforts.

"It seems that Israel wants to spark chaos in the Palestinian territories," he said. "From the beginning, we have said we want stability and calm. Despite that, Israel on every occasion is using lethal force against peaceful young protesters, and peaceful demonstrations are being suppressed with the power of weapons. This is not acceptable at all."

In the most serious unrest, thousands of people took part in a funeral procession for Abu Hamdiyeh in Hebron.

The issue of Palestinian prisoners is deeply emotional in Palestinian society. Nearly every Palestinian family has a member or close acquaintance who has spent time in an Israeli prison, and the 4,500 Palestinians being held by Israel are seen as heroes for standing up to Israeli occupation. …

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