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Amid rising tensions, Palestinians turn out for protests, funerals

April 04, 2013|By Maher Abukhater
  • Palestinians clash with Israeli forces in the West Bank city of Hebron.
Palestinians clash with Israeli forces in the West Bank city of Hebron. (Bernat Armangue / Associated…)

RAMALLAH, West Bank -- As Palestinians poured into the streets Thursday for three tension-filled funerals, their leaders issued stern warnings about rising public anger over Israel's treatment of prisoners and protesters.

In the southern West Bank city of Hebron, tens of thousands of people took part in the funeral for Maysara abu Hamdieh, 63, who died of throat cancer Tuesday while in Israeli detention.

Palestinian officials accused Israel of failing to provide adequate medical treatment and not releasing him sooner when it was clear his condition was terminal.

Following the funeral, Palestinian youths for the third day in a row burned tires and threw rocks at soldiers in the Israeli-controlled zone of Hebron. Soldiers fired tear gas and rubber-coated bullets at the youths. No serious injuries were reported, according to Palestinian medics.

Further north, in the city of Tulkarem, thousands more Palestinians participated in the funeral for two teens shot Wednesday night by Israeli soldiers during a clash at a checkpoint on the outskirts of the city. Israeli officials said the youths were shot after they attacked the checkpoint with Molotov cocktails.

Following those funerals, Palestinians clashed with Israeli soldiers at the same checkpoint where the teens were shot, witnesses said.

Sporadic clashes were also reported in several other areas of the West Bank.

The rise in violence over the last few days prompted Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to accuse Israel of provoking protesters by killing the Palestinian teens.

"Israel wants to put an end to the security that prevailed in the West Bank," he said Thursday. "If it had cared for the security situation, it would not have used excessive force against the protesters."

Israeli officials accused Abbas and the authority of exploiting the death of the Palestinian prisoner and encouraging street clashes as a way to draw international attention to their cause.

Meanwhile, militants in the Gaza Strip fired another rocket into southern Israel Thursday morning, causing no injuries, Israeli military officials said.

It was the third such strike this week, raising fears that the cease-fire agreement that has held between Israel and the Gaza-based Islamist group Hamas since November was unraveling.

Israel, which retaliated with an airstrike Tuesday night, has warned that it will not tolerate a resumption of rocket attacks from Gaza.

U.S. Secretary of State John F. Kerry is expected back in the region this weekend in an attempt to lower tensions and prod both sides to return to the negotiating table, Israeli and Palestinian officials said.

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Times staff writer Edmund Sanders in Jerusalem contributed to this report.

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