Clashes broke out between Israeli forces and Palestinian youths on Monday night after the Fatah movement organized a march in the city of Al-Bireh, in the center of the occupied West Bank and 15 kilometers (9.5 mi) north of Jerusalem.
Marching from Yasser Arafat Square in central Ramallah towards the Israeli Beit El checkpoint north of the Al-Bireh city, the activists called on the international community to support the Palestinian hunger strikers in Israeli jails.
They also called on human rights groups to pressure Israel to fulfil the basic rights of prisoners.
The demonstration was eventually halted by the Israeli Defense Force (IDF) after the youths set fire to tires and began attacking the security forces using stones and Molotov cocktails.
To disperse the Palestinian youth, the IDF deployed water cannons and fired tear gas and stun grenades.
The Israeli soldiers also allegedly used live ammunition and rubber bullets to quell the crowd.
At the end of the violent confrontation, at least nine people suffered injuries from rubber-coated metal bullets and live ammunition, the Palestinian news agency Ma’an reports.
Furthermore, dozens of others Palestinian youths suffered from suffocation after inhaling toxic substance from tear gas canisters.
Around 1,500 Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails began a mass hunger strike on Palestinian Prisoners Day on April 17 to demand better detention conditions.
The inmates, led by prisoner and Fatah leader Marwan Barghouti, call on Israeli authorities to put an end to solitary confinement and to honor family visitation rights.
The prisoners are also demanding access to medical care and an end to the abuse at the hands of prison guards.
An estimated 6,500 Palestinians are currently held by Israel. Out of that number, around 500 are held under administrative detention, a counter-terror practice which is manifested through an extended imprisonment without charge.
Monday night’s clashes followed a similar scenario which resulted in a confrontation with Israeli forces on Sunday.
Protesters were setting bins on fire and hurling stones at Israeli soldiers, while the soldiers fired rubber-coated steel bullets at the protesters, injuring three people.
‘Theatrical decisiveness’: US sanctions 271 Syrians amid stalled Idlib chemical attack probe
The US Treasury Department on Monday announced that it sanctioned 271 employees of Syria’s Scientific Studies and Research Center (SSRC) over their alleged involvement in the research and development of Syria’s ‘chemical program.’
Washington believes that SSRC members were responsible for developing the sarin gas allegedly used in the April 4 Idlib chemical attack.
“These sweeping sanctions target the scientific support center for Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad s horrific chemical weapons attack on innocent civilian men, women and children,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said announcing the sanctions.
Mnuchin vowed to “relentlessly pursue and shut down the financial networks of all individuals involved with the production of chemical weapons used to commit these atrocities.”
The sanctions will see American banks freeze the assets of any individuals placed on the list. The new punitive measures also ban US companies from conducting business with them.
This is not the first time that Washington has placed sanctions on individuals connected to the activities of the SSRC. Just before the Donald Trump administration took office, on January 12, the US Treasury went on to sanction six Syrian officials connected with SSRC work.
Monday’s sanctions are the latest “retaliatory” measure taken by the Trump administration in response to the April 4 chemical attack on Khan Shaykhun, which has so far seen no impartial or professional investigation.
Just 3 days after the chemical incident, the US navy launched 59 Tomahawk missiles against a Syrian air base.
As many as 100 people were allegedly killed and several hundred injured in the April 4 chemical attack in Idlib. The US has pinned the blame on Damascus, claiming that it hid chemical weapons stockpiles from the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) after pledging to hand them over in 2013.
The accusations have been echoed and supported by US allies in Europe and the Middle East, who praised Washington’s unilateral intervention in a sovereign state.
On Monday, the UK for instance, was again quick to welcome the unprecedented scale of US sanctions against Syrian individuals.
“Sanctions send a clear signal that actions have consequences and seek to deter others from a similar acts of barbarism. We welcome the role sanctions play in increasing pressure on the Syrian regime to turn away from its military campaign,” Foreign Secretary,Boris Johnson said in a statement.
According to Moscow, however, by blaming and serving its own brand of justice, the government of the United States is rather trying to distract the international community from the necessity of a thorough investigation of the Idlib incident.
“Once again we see how the sanctions are being used not as an instrument to achieve a real goal, but as a demonstration of a theatrical decisiveness, an effort to substitute or cancel the investigation by the very fact of punishment for an ostensible evidence of guilt,” said Konstantin Kosachev, the chair of the Russian upper house of parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee.
Following the April 4 incident, the Russian Defense Ministry issued a statement saying that the Syrian Air Force was targeting a militant arms depot that is believed to have contained some chemicals used in the production of gas-filled shells previously used by rebels against government forces in places like Aleppo.
But while the West continues to be in tune with Washington, Moscow, from the onset, insisted on a thorough investigation, including an on-site inspection in rebel-held territory, arguing that the US reached premature conclusions.
However, the executive council of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) rejected a proposal from Russia and Iran to examine the site of the chemical incident in Idlib province.
The UK and France have meanwhile claimed that their experts have “received” samples from the site of the incident, which they passed on to OPCW labs who then identified the chemical agent used in the attack as sarin gas.
The Russian military, however, questioned the swift analysis of the samples, adding that it wanted details on who collected the samples and how they were studied at OPCW-designated labs. This has not been disclosed.
“I hardly think they will be investigated properly,” Daniel McAdams, Executive Director of the Ron Paul Institute told RT. “The entire US operation in Iraq and Syria is not being investigated properly.”
On Friday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said the fact that Russia’s proposal of an on-site investigation was “blocked by Western delegations without any explanations” exposes their aim to topple Syrian President Bashar Assad. Lavrov said that it was now “obvious” that “false information” was being used to escalate the war in Syria into a full-scale invasion.
EU-Russia ‘strategic partnership’ desired but surreal amid sanctions – Mogherini after Lavrov talks
“Our bilateral cooperation is not frozen,” Mogherini told journalists on Monday. “My visit here is the most evident demonstration of that.”
“It is true that it is not any more what it used to be or what we would have liked it to be. For years, the European Union and Russia were working on the perspective of a strategic partnership. We would like to go back to a situation of that kind,” the EU foreign policy chief said, noting however that it “would be quite surreal to consider each other strategic partners and have sanctions.”
“Our sanctions are not an objective in themselves,” Mogherini insisted, citing the issue of the “full implementation of the Minsk Agreements by all sides” as a precondition for lifting EU sanctions against Moscow.
Lavrov however questioned the very logic of sanctioning Moscow for the alleged failure to comply with the Minsk Agreements, amid all Kiev’s attempts to sabotage the peace process.
“The apparent sabotage by the Kiev leadership of everything that is written in the Minsk Agreements should meet some reaction from those who patronize this government,” Lavrov noted, speaking alongside the EU foreign policy chief.
He pointed out that Ukraine “has been trying to change the agreements, radically rewrite them in order to achieve their goals, which may lead the process to a deadlock.”
Kiev has been “avoiding direct dialogue with Donetsk and Lugansk, although it is written in black on white in the Minsk documents,” he added, pointing out that the agreements similarly oblige the EU to influence the Ukrainian leadership.
“But, of course, if the position of the European Union is that everyone must fulfill their part of the obligations, the question arises: why sanctions exclusively against Russia?” Lavrov said.
The Russian Foreign Minister admitted that Russia and “the West are living through an uneasy period,” but emphasized that Moscow is “still aimed at restoring full-fledged cooperation with the European Union, our largest trade and economic partner.”
“We are open to go as far as you are ready to go,” he added, noting that sanctions is an “artificial problem” hampering a Moscow-EU partnership.
The EU foreign policy chief said the EU and Russia decided to work together a number of key issues, including counterterrorism and the situation in Syria.
“We’re ready to explore all possible fields of cooperation on the basis, as Sergey [Lavrov] mentioned, of a pragmatic assessment of our respective interests, and in many fields these interests coincide, both bilaterally, regionally and globally,” she said.
The Moscow exchange was “useful, constructive, positive, and for sure we will follow this up not only in the course of the day but also in the coming weeks and months,” Mogherini added.
“We’re determined to increase the level of coordination, cooperation, exploring possible ways in which Russia and the European Union can be useful in some of the crisis we are facing in the world of today. We live in difficult times, when not even one single inch or one single centimeter, to use European standards, of cooperation can be wasted or underestimated. So, we have the responsibility to do the utmost to find common ground, common solutions.”