Palestinians protest closures as settlers march in West Bank
JERUSALEM (AP) — Palestinian protesters and Israeli troops clashed in the occupied West Bank on Tuesday as thousands of Israelis marched to the site of a demolished settlement and called on the government to rebuild it.
Palestinian paramedics said they treated at least eight people who were struck by rubber bullets or tear gas canisters fired by Israeli soldiers in the West Bank village of Burqa.
Several dozen residents were protesting the closure of roads by the army to allow the march led by hard-line Israeli settlers to take place. Palestinian youths burned tires and hurled stones at the soldiers.
Tuesday’s march came during a period of surging tensions between Israelis and Palestinians. Palestinian militants fired a rocket from the Gaza Strip into southern Israel for the first time in months after days of clashes between Israeli police and Palestinians at a flashpoint holy site in Jerusalem.
Similar circumstances last year erupted into an 11-day war between Israel and the militant group Hamas in the Gaza Strip.
The shrine, known to Muslims as the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound and to Jews as the Temple Mount, where two temples stood in antiquity, is the emotional epicenter of the decades-long Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
In recent weeks, Palestinians have killed 14 people in attacks inside Israel. The Israeli military has launched raids across the West Bank that is says are aimed at arresting suspected accomplices and preventing further attacks.
At least 26 Palestinians — including the five who carried out the deadly attacks and others engaging in clashes with soldiers — have been killed in recent weeks, An unarmed woman and a lawyer who appears to have been a bystander were also among those killed.
An 18-year-old woman died late Monday of wounds sustained during earlier clashes near the West Bank city of Jenin.
Several thousand Israelis, including young children, took part in the roughly two-kilometer (one mile) march to the demolished outpost of Homesh, where organizers staged festivities attended by religious nationalist politicians and rabbis.
The Israeli military didn’t formally authorize the march, but soldiers closed roads and prevented Palestinians from reaching the area.
Israel captured the West Bank in the 1967 Mideast war and in the decades since has built dozens of settlements that are now home to more than 500,000 Israelis living alongside nearly 3 million Palestinians. The Palestinians seek the territory as the heartland of a future independent state.
The settlement of Homesh was built on private Palestinian land in the occupied West Bank and was dismantled in 2005. In the years since, Israeli settlers have staged several marches, rallies and attempts to rebuild it in violation of Israeli law and military orders.
The area has been the scene of frequent violence by settlers and Palestinians in recent months. In December, Palestinian militants killed a Jewish settler near the site of the former settlement, and a month earlier six farmers were hospitalized after settlers attacked them with metal batons and stones.