HEBRON, West Bank (AP) — Israeli troops clashed with dozens of stone-throwing protesters in the volatile West Bank city of Hebron on Friday, firing tear gas and rubber bullets at crowds who had approached a military checkpoint protecting Jewish settlers.
It was the most serious violence in a series of demonstrations carried out in east Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza Strip on Friday meant to mark the 13th anniversary of the second Palestinian uprising against Israeli occupation.
Hebron is a frequent site of clashes. Several hundred hard-line Jewish settlers live in heavily fortified enclaves in the biblical city, home to some 170,000 Palestinians. Tensions there were further heightened this week when an Israeli soldier was killed by a Palestinian sniper who remains at large.
The clashes erupted when a group of youths, some of their faces covered with ski masks or Palestinian headdresses, began pelting a military checkpoint that protects a Jewish settler enclave. Protesters lit piles of garbage on fire and threw the stones behind walls of smoke.
The military said there were roughly 250 protesters, and that security forces used "riot dispersal means" to quell the violence.
Israeli security forces fired stun grenades, rubber bullets and tear gas, sending crowds of Palestinians running for cover. At one point, a man could be seen running frantically with a small child in his hands. At least four Palestinians were slightly injured by rubber bullets and were seen receiving medical treatment.
Palestinian security forces also attempted to prevent stone throwing in Palestinian-controlled areas of the city.
Demonstrations also occurred in east Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip. In a security move meant to calm tensions, Israel restricted entry to the Al-Aqsa Mosque for weekly Friday prayers to men over the age of 50.
In Gaza, the military said it fired tear gas to disperse a crowd of about 300 Palestinians who had marched to the border. Israel considers the immediate border area off limits.
Israel, which withdrew from Gaza in 2005, has branded the Hamas-run territory to be a hostile entity. It has carried out two large military operations there in response to militant rocket attacks in recent years. The border area has been largely quiet since a weeklong Israeli military offensive last November.
The Palestinians claim the West Bank, east Jerusalem and Gaza — areas captured by Israel in 1967 — for a future state.
Israel has annexed east Jerusalem as part of its capital in a move that is not internationally recognized. The Palestinians have limited self-rule in the West Bank, which is also home to more than 300,000 Israeli settlers.
While Israel withdrew its troops and settlers from Gaza in 2005, it still controls the area's airspace and coastline and heavily restricts movement in and out of its border with the territory.
Israel and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas recently kicked off a new round of U.S.-brokered peace talks aimed at establishing the terms of a Palestinian state.