Clashes, confrontations and demonstrations have taken place over the past several days between Palestinians and Israeli soldiers in most of the cities, villages and refugee camps of the West Bank. A majority of these confrontations have occurred in the zones between Area A, under Palestinian Authority control, and Areas B and C under Israeli control. This characteristic is reminiscent of the early days of the second intifada in October 2000, when hundreds of Palestinians demonstrated against the visit of then Israeli opposition leader Ariel Sharon at Jerusalem’s al Aqsa mosque. Like October 2000, today numerous protest activities are taking place due to Israel’s current attempts to alter the status quo of al Aqsa.
What is new today, however, is the dramatic escalation of Israeli settler attacks against Palestinians following last week’s killing of two settlers in the northern West Bank. Dozens of attacks were organised by settlers, primarily in the northern West Bank. Dozens of Palestinian-owned cars were stoned and vandalised, fields and crops were burned and homes were attacked. It is clear that the settlers control movement on numerous West Bank roads, while Israeli soldiers do almost nothing to stop them. And unlike the past, settlers are attacking Palestinian villages at night, again with the passive or active support of soldiers.
Confrontations are escalating, and no end is currently in sight.
Palestinian medical sources report that some 450 Palestinians were shot by live and rubber-coated steel bullets in the past several days. Twenty of them are in critical condition. Five Palestinians were killed by Israeli soldiers, including the 12-year-old child Shadi Obeid Alalh, who was shot in the northern entrance of Bethlehem. Seven cases of soldier and settler attacks of Palestinian ambulances have further been reported.
Clashes and confrontations are escalating, yet Palestinian commentators note that joint leadership from the political parties is still lacking. The parties issued individual statements and positions calling on Palestinians to face the attacks by settlers and soldiers, establishing committees in the targeted areas to protect the local population. Last Monday the national and Islamic political parties issued a joint statement calling on people to demonstrate in the aforementioned contact areas.
Several commentators note that just like in the first and second intifadas, here too Palestinians as individuals began demonstrating while the political parties ran to keep up ; people thus force the political parties to take responsibility and leadership.
Others note that for an intifada to occur, the Palestinian Authority must change its relationship with Israel, ending the security coordination and other agreements so that the Palestinians come face to face with the occupation. Calls are further made for the PA to issue a clear political message with concrete demands, and to end the internal division between Fatah/Hamas or Gaza and Ramallah.
Yet all Palestinian commentators are in agreement that the Palestinian struggle will not be as it was before. Ongoing Palestinian actions on the ground will be reflected on the political level.
Young Palestinians resist, challenging both Israel and internal political divisions.
Friday was a bloody day in Palestine, as clashes with Israeli military forces reverberated throughout the West Bank, Gaza Strip and Jerusalem. Ten Palestinians were killed, six from the Gaza Strip. Over 200 Palestinians were wounded by live and rubber-coated steel bullets whilst hundreds of others suffered from the effects of tear gas. The clashes took place in Palestinian villages in located in the West Bank’s Area C, under Israeli control, and in friction zones with Israeli soldiers around the cities of Bethlehem, Ramallah and downtown Hebron. In Gaza the clashes occurred primarily in the southern area of the coastal strip. Palestinians felt in a war, as Israeli soldiers invaded numerous northern West Bank villages, including Beit Furik, Azzoun and Awarta. Israeli settler attacks took place in Hebron, as settlers stoned Palestinian-owned homes in the downtown areas of Al Ras, Tel Rumeida and Ja’bari. Two children were reported wounded from stones thrown by settlers at homes.
The Palestinian Ministry of Health reports that in the past ten days, Israel has killed 14 Palestinians, wounded 700 while causing some 1,000 Palestinians to be overcome from the effects of tear gas.
Friday October 9, 2015 is a remarkable day in Palestine, a day in which the Palestinian youth were able to turn the tables and send messages in all directions and to all involved. The clearest and most common message of the protesters is that we the Palestinians are still living under colonialism and injustice. We seek freedom and independence – not through the failed peace process, but through a struggle against the Israeli occupation through which we can claim our rights. In some demonstrations, including the one in the West Bank city of Bethlehem, the Algerian flag was raised, symbolising and commemorating the Algerian revolution. Palestinians were thus saying that just as the Algerian revolution resulted in liberation from colonization, the Palestinian people should take the same path.
Another clear message on Friday was that Jerusalem and the city’s al Aqsa mosque are a symbol of unity for the Palestinian people. This was clear from the numerous slogans and speeches made in protest actions, which clarified that Jerusalem is above and beyond all internal Palestinian contradictions. Further, we know that this spate of clashes was triggered by recent Israeli attacks on the al Aqsa mosque.
Despite the Fatah-Hamas division on the official level, unity amongst the various Palestinian parties was evident on the ground in recent days. Palestinians, especially the youth, are successfully working together during demonstrations and clashes on the ground, throughout the West Bank, Gaza and within Israel. A young Palestinian participating in Friday’s demonstration in Bethlehem told the media that “we are in unity against the Israeli occupation and the Palestinian official political divisions have nothing to do with us. It is shameful that many of our leaders are still living in a past in which such divisions mean something.”
Several Palestinian commentators are describing this current spate of clashes as a Youth Intifada, the uprising of the Palestinians born after the Oslo agreements. In this same vein some Israeli leaders have stated that Israel is now facing a Palestinian generation that does not know fear.
The recent wave of popular Palestinian protest activities, clashes and demonstrations have placed the Palestinian political parties in an embarrassing situation. After ten days of clashes led by Palestinian youth, new messages are being heard from some of the political parties. Ziyad Nakhala, the number two man in the Islamic Jihad party, stated that the party “will not stand with its hands tied when our people are being killed in the streets.” Hamas leader Ismael Haniyeh stated that Friday’s demonstrations in Gaza prove that all fronts are now open against the Israeli occupation.
Naef Hawatme, the secretary general of the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine, told the al Mayadeen media outlet that we are currently witnessing the beginnings of the third intifada. “There will be no more authority without authority”, Hawatme said, alluding to the Palestinian Authority, “and no occupation without a price.”
On Thursday night the Palestinian political parties in the southern West Bank district of Hebron called on all Palestinians to take part in the clashes occurring throughout Palestine, and called for several protest activities in the coming days. Similarly, the national and Islamic parties called for a general strike next Tuesday, dubbing it a planned day of rage. Such a call is reminiscent of similar calls made during the first intifada.