By Dan Cohen and Lia Tarachansky
For the second night in a row, the al-Aqsa Brigades, the armed wing of the Fatah Party, opened fire on Israeli forces at the Qalandia checkpoint. A frequent site of fiery clashes, the checkpoint separates Ramallah and the West bank from Jerusalem.
Fatah is the dominant political party in the Palestinian Authority (PA), and has garnered significant resentment in recent years for its open security collaboration with the Israeli army. This coordination led to many viewing the Authority as a subcontractor of the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories. Last Sunday, while dispersing yet another demonstration, PA security forces fired tear gas, sound grenades and assaulted protesters with batons as they marched near the Beit El settlement. This sort of PA repression of Palestinian popular resistance is now common, and escalated when the PA began using live fire against anti-war demonstrators in Nablus this week as they demonstrated against the Israeli assault on Gaza.
On Thursday night, The Real News witnessed two hundred injured protesters pour into Ramallah Hospital, delivered by ambulances and private vehicles. Nearly all were injuries from live ammunition, shot by Israeli forces at Qalandiya. Working well beyond capacity, gurneys were in short supply. Wounded demonstrators awaiting medical care laid on the emergency room floor while hundreds of friends and family members gathered outside to await news. The sheer quantity of serious injuries made for a chaotic scene, atypical of otherwise quiet Ramallah. PA police officers assisted in maintaining order, creating a human barrier along with bystanders in an effort to clear a lane for the vehicles delivering the injured. Many volunteered to donate blood after the neighbouring blood bank reported shortages.
Despite some senior PA officials then calling on Palestinian media on Friday for West Bank protests against the war, most Palestinians have come to believe that the PA has given up resisting the Israeli occupation. The night before this call for protests, one of the largest demonstrations took place at Qalandiya with at least ten thousands demonstrators. After the call, on Friday night, protests actually died down in Ramallah. In Jenin, 10,000 protesters marched to the Jalame checkpoint. Israeli forces open fire , killing Bassem Safi Sadeq Abu Rob of Qabatiya, and injuring thirty. The al-Aqsa Brigade’s attacks therefore demonstrated the armed wing’s divergence from the PA. In July, the militants went as far as open fire on a PA security jeep near the northern West Bank refugee camp of Jenin, as The Real News previously reported .
During the protests that did take place Friday, three Palestinians were killed by Israeli soldiers in Beit Ummar, a village near Bethlehem. Among the dead was Hashem Khader Abu Maria, 45, a former human rights worker with Defence for Children International – Palestine. In Bethlehem, protesters marched to the military compound containing Rachel’s Tomb and at least three were shot in the legs with live ammunition. Throughout the day, three more Palestinians were killed, including Eid Rabah F’deilat, 28, from Arroub Refugee Camp near Hebron, and Khaled Odeh, 18, who was shot and killed by an Israeli settler driving by Hawara checkpoint, near Nablus.
These violent incidents come at a time when yet another ceasefire negotiation reached a dead end when an Egyptian proposal brought forward by US Secretary of State John Kerry received a cold shoulder from the Israeli security cabinet on Friday afternoon. The proposal would allow Israeli forces to remain in the Gaza Strip, and continue their operation, which allegedly include locating and destroying tunnels under the Gaza-Israel border. Instead of the proposed week-long ceasefire, Israel and Hamas agreed to a 12-hour truce, according to Ma’an News . At the time of writing, the death toll in the besieged enclave stood at 867, and 5,730 injured. On Friday another three soldiers were killed in battle, bringing the Israeli death toll to 38, including three civilians.
Dan Cohen is a Ramallah-based journalist and photographer. His work has appeared in Vice News, Mondoweiss, and the Independent Middle East Media Center, based in Bethlehem. Follow him on twitter at @dancohen3000
Lia Tarachansky is the Israel/Palestine correspondent for The Real News Network and a filmmaker whose recent documentary On The Side Of The Road is currently screening in festivals. Follow her on twitter at @liatarachansky