Israeli security forces responded with extreme violence to demonstrations held across the West Bank in solidarity with hunger strikers held in Israeli prisons without charge.
The largest demonstration took place outside Ofer prison in Beitunia, where Israeli soldiers shot two people with high-velocity bullets. The use of live ammunition against unarmed protesters is a common occurrence at demonstrations in Palestinian territory.
An estimated 2,500 people gathered outside Ofer prison for midday prayers on Friday, a location chosen to protest the treatment of Palestinian political prisoners. As the prayers were concluding, Israeli soldiers opened fire on the crowd with tear gas and rubber-coated steel bullets, failing to give any warning before attempting to disperse the demonstration.
Despite the immediate attack, around 500 people continued to demonstrate at Ofer for nearly four more hours. Dr. Mustafa Barghouti, secretary-general of the Palestinian National Initiative, said around 200 people were injured, including the two that were shot with live ammunition.
Early reports indicated that Israeli soldiers were using dumdum bullets, but Dr. Barghouti, who has firsthand knowledge of the case, said this was incorrect. The bullets, he said, were high-velocity bullets that can shatter on impact when they collide with bone.
"When they impact something hard, they shatter into many pieces, so they act like dumdum bullets," he said.
The two victims are in stable condition at Ramallah hospital. One demonstrator was shot in the shoulder and the other was shot in the leg.
In addition to live ammunition, the Israeli soldiers fired more steel bullets wrapped in plastic covering, which Dr Barghouti stressed were different from rubber bullets.
"Without finishing the prayers, the Israeli army started firing metallic bullets. They are not rubber bullets, they are metallic bullets coated with a thin sheet of plastic," he said. "Many people lost their lives because of these bullets [in the past.]"
The demonstration was part of a series of mounting protests drawing attention to Israel's unjust detention practices. Samer Issawi, Jaafar Ezzedine, Ayman Sharawneh and Tareq Qaadan are all currently carrying on months-long hunger strikes in opposition to Israel's two-tiered prison system, which denies basic human rights to Palestinians.
Issawi in particular has generated media attention in recent weeks, and two weeks ago several hundred gathered to support him outside the Ramleh prison hospital where he is held. Issawi is being held under administrative detention by the Israeli military, a procedure that prisoner-rights group Addameer says "allows the Israeli military to hold prisoners indefinitely on secret information without charging them or allowing them to stand trial."
In addition to Friday's demonstrations, a smaller protest was held on Wednesday outside Ofer prison, and many West Bank villages have staged demonstrations in support of the hunger strikers throughout the week.
The gathering at Ofer was organized by the Popular Struggle Coordination Committee under the banner of "Breaking the Silence," said PSCC member Mohammad Khatib.
"I think people want to break the silence, the silence of not doing anything, this feeling that they cannot make anything," he said. "The [demonstration] was from the grassroots movement. I think this is one of the things that make this stronger."
Khatib said the PSCC will organize further actions in support of all Palestinian political prisoners in the coming weeks.
"It's supposed to be a wider popular movement supporting these hunger strikers. We must not let them alone in this fight," he said.