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Palestinian protests back hunger-strike prisoners

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

Palestinians around the West Bank on Friday staged solidarity events for prisoners held by Israel and on hunger strike, with dozens injured in clashes with Israeli security forces.

Near the West Bank city of Ramallah, some 3,000 Palestinians held a protest march to the Ofer military prison that erupted into violent clashes with soldiers, an AFP correspondent said.

Palestinian medical sources and eyewitnesses said two demonstrators were wounded by live gunfire, and 20 more by rubber-coated bullets.

A military spokeswoman confirmed live bullets were fired in the air after soldiers felt they were in "immediate danger" from stones hurled by Palestinians.

At the Jalama checkpoint at the northernmost tip of the West Bank, 1,000 Palestinians clashed with Israeli soldiers, an AFP correspondent said, with four injured by live gunfire and 20 by gas. Another 10 were arrested.

An Israeli army spokeswoman said 150 Palestinians threw stones at soldiers, and confirmed 10 were detained.

In the east Jerusalem village of Issawiya, hundreds of Palestinians clashed with police. Palestinians said one demonstrator was wounded in the eye by a rubber bullet.

Four Palestinians are currently on long-term hunger strike -- Samer Assawi, Jaafar Ezzedine, Ayman Sharawneh and Tareq Qaadan.

International Quartet representative Tony Blair on Friday expressed "concern" over the "deteriorating health condition of the four prisoners, one of whom has been on a hunger strike for over 200 days."

"Israel must respect the human rights of all prisoners and provide them with all necessary medical assistance and legal recourse to due process according to international standards," Blair said in a statement.

Speaking at a solidarity tent near the International Committee of the Red Cross offices in El-Bireh, Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas promised that "our brave prisoners will top the agenda" in his meetings with US President Barack Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry, expected in the region soon.

According to Israeli rights watchdog B'Tselem, at the end of 2012 more than 4,500 Palestinian detainees and prisoners were held in Israeli jails.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130215/palestinian-protests-back-hunger-strike-prisoners