PHOTOS: Palestinians protest in support of hunger-striking prisoners

Hundreds of Palestinians in Bethlehem protest in solidarity with hunger-striking Palestinian prisoners and to mark Palestinian Prisoners’ Day.

Photos and text: Oren Ziv and Faiz Abu Rmeleh

Protest in Bethlehem to mark Palestinian Prisoners’ Day, West Bank, April 17, 2017. (Activestills.org)
Protest in Bethlehem to mark Palestinian Prisoners’ Day, West Bank, April 17, 2017. (Activestills.org)

Hundreds of Palestinians gathered in Bethlehem on Monday afternoon in order to mark Palestinian Prisoners’ Day, marching to Checkpoint 300 and Rachel’s Tomb in solidarity with the 1,100 Palestinian prisoners who had launched a hunger strike earlier that day.

Protest in Bethlehem to mark Palestinian Prisoners’ Day, West Bank, April 17, 2017. (Activestills.org)
Protest in Bethlehem to mark Palestinian Prisoners’ Day, West Bank, April 17, 2017. (Activestills.org)
Protest in Bethlehem to mark Palestinian Prisoners’ Day, West Bank, April 17, 2017. (Activestills.org)
Protest in Bethlehem to mark Palestinian Prisoners’ Day, West Bank, April 17, 2017. (Activestills.org)

The demonstrators held up photos of Marwan Barghouti, the most visible of the roughly 6,500 Palestinians currently imprisoned in Israel, as well as of members of their families who are also political prisoners.

Protest in Bethlehem to mark Palestinian Prisoners’ Day, West Bank, April 17, 2017. (Activestills.org)
Protest in Bethlehem to mark Palestinian Prisoners’ Day, West Bank, April 17, 2017. (Activestills.org)

Once they had arrived at the section of the separation wall that cuts off Bethlehem from Jerusalem, a few protesters started pushing at the iron gate. Israeli soldiers and Border Police officers opened the gate and fired tear gas at the demonstrators.

Protest in Bethlehem to mark Palestinian Prisoners’ Day, West Bank, April 17, 2017. (Activestills.org)
Protest in Bethlehem to mark Palestinian Prisoners’ Day, West Bank, April 17, 2017. (Activestills.org)

Afterwards several Palestinian youths started throwing stones and the army shot sponge-tipped bullets in response, injuring at least three protesters.

Protest in Bethlehem to mark Palestinian Prisoners’ Day, West Bank, April 17, 2017. (Activestills.org)
Protest in Bethlehem to mark Palestinian Prisoners’ Day, West Bank, April 17, 2017. (Activestills.org)

Unlike in most other demonstrations, the IDF seemed to be operating under instructions to remain “restrained,” firing tear gas and then retreating behind the iron gate in the wall. The intent behind this was likely to keep the protest under control so as not to give the impression that the hunger strike had succeeded in igniting the Palestinian street.

Protest in Bethlehem to mark Palestinian Prisoners’ Day, West Bank, April 17, 2017. (Activestills.org)
Protest in Bethlehem to mark Palestinian Prisoners’ Day, West Bank, April 17, 2017. (Activestills.org)

Demonstrations to mark Palestinian Prisoners’ Day also took place in Nablus and Ramallah.

A version of this article also appears in Hebrew on Local Call. Read it here