Mohammed Ballas / Reuters

Palestinian Day of Rage turns deadly as tension gives way to violence

Five Palestinians killed as protesters clash with Israeli forces in the occupied territories

Five Palestinians died and more than 100 others were injured on Friday as protests marking a Day of Rage against the Israeli occupation turned into clashes in Gaza and the West Bank.

In Gaza, Israeli forces opened fire on protesters approaching a border fence, killing Yahiya Abd al-Qader Farhat, 24, and Mahmoud Hatim Hmeid, 22, according to local Ma’an News Agency.

At least 100 others were also injured in the attack by Israeli forces — including 11 Palestinians shot with live fire and dozens injured by rubber-coated steel bullets and tear gas, Ashraf al-Qidra, Gaza's Ministry of Health spokesman, told Ma’an.

Earlier in the day, Palestinian protester Shawiq Jamal Jabr, 37, died of wounds sustained during protests in Gaza last week. Israeli forces also fired on those protesters, killing and injuring a number of Palestinian youths.

Hamas and Islamic Jihad called for Friday’s Day of Rage in Gaza to show solidarity with Palestinian protesters clashing with Israeli forces in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

In the West Bank, near the Israeli settlement of Kiryat Arba in the Hebron district, a Palestinian man identified as Eyad Khalil Awawdeh, 26, was shot dead on Friday after attacking an Israeli soldier with a knife. The suspect wore a “press” T-shirt and blended in with journalists in order to gain access to soldiers. The attack occurred on the sidelines of clashes between Palestinian protesters and Israeli forces in the area.

Meanwhile, in the West Bank city of Nablus, Israeli forces shot and killed Palestinian protester Jihad Hanani, 19, and injured dozens of others, according to Ma'an.

Near Nablus, Palestinians also set fire to Joseph's Tomb, which has been venerated for centuries by Jews, Christians and Muslims. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas condemned the attack, ordered the damage to be repaired and opened an investigation into the arson.

Also on Friday, Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, an armed group affiliated with Abbas' Fatah party, announced it was breaking a yearlong truce with Israel — a move that could be a prelude to more armed confrontations.

The recent surge in violence broke out in early October after Israel imposed restrictions on worshippers at Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem. After the restrictions were implemented, four Israelis were killed in two attacks blamed on Palestinians. Israeli settlers in the West Bank responded by rioting, assaulting Palestinians at random and destroying their property. A spate of protests, clashes and retaliatory stabbings have ensued.

Since the beginning of October, at least 36 Palestinians and seven Israelis have been killed. More than 1,500 Palestinians have also been injured in clashes with Israeli forces, forcing the Red Crescent to declare an emergency.

Palestinian protesters are calling for unrestricted access to worship at Al-Aqsa, a site also revered by Jews as the location of two ancient temples. The protesters also demand an end to Israel’s decades-long military occupation of the Palestinian territories and the cessation of settlement building, both of which are illegal under international law.

U.S. President Barack Obama on Friday condemned the surge in violence and urged both Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to ease tensions.

"We condemn in the strongest possible terms violence directed against innocent people," Obama said in a news conference. Both Israeli and Palestinian officials must "try to tamp down rhetoric that may feed violence or anger or misunderstanding," Obama said.

Riyad Mansour, Palestine’s U.N. ambassador, on Friday called on the body’s Security Council to immediately provide international protection to “defenseless Palestinian people.”

Mansour asked the council to implement a resolution adopted after a Jewish settler killed 29 Muslim worshippers at a holy site in Hebron in 1994. It called on Israel "to guarantee the safety and protection of the Palestinian civilians throughout the occupied territory," including by a "temporary international or foreign presence."

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said he would meet with Netanyahu in Germany next week to discuss ways to end the crisis, State Department officials said Friday. He will then travel to the Middle East to meet separately with Palestinian leadership.

In an interview with National Public Radio on Friday, Kerry condemned stabbing attacks by Palestinians on Israelis.

"No amount of frustration is appropriate to license any violence anywhere at any time. No violence should occur. And the Palestinians need to understand," Kerry said. 

Israeli officials had condemned Kerry for linking the current round of violence to Israel's settlement activity earlier this week at a speech at Harvard University.

In his remarks, Kerry said: "Unless we get going, a two-state solution could conceivably be stolen from everybody. And there's been a massive increase in settlements over the course of the last years, and now you have this violence because there's a frustration that is growing."

On Friday, Obama said the secretary's words were mischaracterized in the media, and that there was no direct link between increased settlement building and protests, clashes and stabbing attacks.

"I don't think that's what Secretary Kerry said," Obama said according to the Jerusalem Post. What Kerry meant is that the current atmosphere among Israelis and Palestinians "creates the potential for more misunderstanding and triggers, and that's something that has been true now for decades."

"There's not a direct causation here," Obama said.

However, Palestinian protesters, activists and officials have stated otherwise.

"These protests and clashes are occurring because the Palestinian people have lost all hope in their leaders, in humanity even," Fadi Salah Al Shaik Yousef, a protester in Gaza told Al Jazeera on Wednesday.

“We’ve found that peaceful solutions are not going to end the occupation — so we have to keep resisting.”

Al Jazeera and wire services

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