Israeli soldiers shot and killed three Palestinian protesters and wounded about 100 on Thursday in confrontations with several thousand people demonstrating in the occupied West Bank against a 17-day-old Israeli offensive in Gaza, Palestinian medical officials said.
The Israeli military confirmed troops had used “riot dispersal means” against protesters who threw rocks and firebombs at them and blocked a road with burning tires. The protest erupted after allies of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah movement marched from the West Bank city of Ramallah to the edges of Jerusalem in protest against Israel’s war against Hamas in Gaza where the Palestinian death toll has topped 760.
A doctor at Ramallah hospital said three people died of bullet injuries, including a man in his 20s who was injured in the head, while at least 100 other people were treated for various injuries after the protest.
Israel Radio said the protest appeared to be the largest since a 2000-2005 Palestinian uprising.
Israeli troops have killed two other Palestinians this week in smaller confrontations in the West Bank, territory Israel captured along with Gaza in a 1967 war. Protests were also reported in Jerusalem, where police confronted Palestinian protesters in and near the old walled city, including outside a flashpoint holy site revered by Muslims and Jews.
Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said several officers were injured by rocks thrown at them in Jerusalem and that about 20 protesters were arrested.
Amid the spiralling violence highlighted by the shelling of a UN-run school in the Gaza Strip that killed 15 Palestinians on Thursday, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon made an impassioned plea for Israel and Hamas to end their conflict.
“I was shocked and appalled by what has happened in Beit Hanoun,” Ban told reporters.
“It is totally unacceptable,” he said in Cairo, before sitting down for talks with US Secretary of State John Kerry, who said the incident underscored the need to reach a cease-fire to end a conflict in which more than 760 Palestinians have died.
“I am telling to the parties both Israelis and Hamas, Palestinians, that it’s morally wrong to kill your own people,” Ban added. “You must stop fighting and enter into a dialogue. Whatever differences you may have, this is wrong.”
“Why are you continuing to kill people? There are many other ways to resolve this issue without killing each other. I am angry about … what they are doing,” he added. “Now is the time to sit down together instead of killing each other.”
Neither Kerry nor Ban addressed who might be responsible for the school shelling.
Gazan authorities blamed the Israeli forces for the incident. The Israeli military said its troops were fighting gunmen from Hamas, which runs Gaza, in the area and that it was investigating.
Kerry spent his fourth day in the region talking to world leaders to try to end the 17-day conflict, in which Israel has lost at least 32 soldiers in clashes as well as three civilians killed inside Israel by Palestinian rockets and mortar fire.