Dozens of Palestinian activists climbed over Israel’s separation wall to Jerusalem on Friday at a checkpoint near the West Bank city of Ramallah as tensions rise over scattered attacks from both sides and access to holy sites.
Between 30 and 40 protesters were able to scale the over 25-foot high concrete wall using ladders and ramps after activists cut the razor wire lining the top of the wall, Samer Nazzal, a Palestinian photographer, told Al Jazeera.
The protest was part of the #On2Jerusalem campaign organized by local nonviolent protest groups known as Popular Resistance Committees, which often organize peaceful protests against the wall on Fridays.
“The action was in support of the people of Jerusalem,” Nazzal said. “There are clashes every day in Jerusalem because of the Israeli government’s policies towards the Arab residents.”
After scaling the wall, activists returned to the West Bank side of the wall, and no clashes with Israeli security forces were reported.
Israel began construction on the wall in 2002, saying it was meant to prevent attacks. But critics argue it is effectively a land-grab because over 85 percent of the wall is constructed inside the Green Line — the internationally recognized borders between the West Bank and Israel. They argue the wall serves as a de facto annexation of Palestinian land.
Also in the West Bank near Ramallah on Friday, Palestinian youth clashed with Israeli security forces at Qalandia checkpoint after activists scaled the wall there as well. Israeli soldiers fired live ammunition, tear gas, stun grenades and rubber-coated-steel bullets at protesters and those who were symbolically attempting to march to Jerusalem, Palestinian news website Maan News reported. Though the city is just 10 miles from Ramallah, because of the checkpoint and wall it can take over an hour to travel to Jerusalem, and the trip requires a special Israeli permission for West Bank residents.
Palestinian protesters also descended on Hizma on Friday, a village near Jerusalem where there is another checkpoint separating West Bank residents from the city. Several protesters were injured when Israeli forces opened fire with rubber-coated steel bullets and tear gas to prevent them from crossing the checkpoint, according to Nazzal and local media.
Despite failing to cross into Jerusalem, activists said they succeeded in closing the checkpoint and road, which is the main entry point for Israeli settlers living in the West Bank to access Jerusalem.
Dozens of Palestinians also demonstrated at the entrance of a major Israeli settlement bloc in the West Bank called Maale Adumim, which has a population of over 40,000 and, like all settlements, is closed to most Palestinians. A series of attacks on Palestinians, as well as their property, have been blamed on Israeli settlers living in the West Bank, including hit and run attacks that have killed children and the torching of mosques and agricultural fields.
A spokeswoman for the Israeli military said there was an “attempt” to cross the wall, referring to Friday’s action near Qalandia, but did not provide further details, Maan reported.
Armed with hammers, Palestinian youth last weekend smashed a hole in Israel’s wall on the 25th anniversary of the fall of Berlin’s wall.
The activists who organized the Nov. 9 event said in a written statement: “It doesn’t matter how high the barriers will be, they will fall. Like the Berlin Wall fell, the Palestinian wall will fall.”