Israeli undercover unit breaks up Palestinian protest

RAMALLAH - An Israeli undercover unit infiltrated a Palestinian protest where stones were thrown at soldiers on the outskirts of Ramallah on Wednesday before dispersing it by firing into the air and making arrests. 

Israeli security forces also fired toward the “lower part” of the body of one Palestinian who threw a large stone at them, according to the military. It was unclear if anyone was hit. 

AFP journalists witnessed the operation during the protest by around 100 to 150 Palestinians near a military checkpoint in the occupied West Bank. 

The operation saw a few dozen soldiers move from further down the street towards the crowd. 

Suddenly, several men wearing keffiyehs or balaclavas, including one with a Palestinian flag wrapped around his head, pulled out pistols. 

One threw a smoke grenade while others fired in the air. The army then rapidly moved towards the remaining protesters, who fled. Medics on the scene said three Palestinians had been injured during the protests. 

Israel’s military said forces including an undercover unit carried out the operation during what it called a “violent riot”. It said Palestinians threw stones and firebombs at its forces while rolling burning tyres. Three people were arrested, it said in a statement. 

Rare video footage of the operation was captured by an AFP journalist. 

Israeli forces regularly carry out such operations against stone-throwing protests in which agents pretend to be demonstrators before turning on the crowd. 

Such agents are referred to by Palestinians as mustarabeen, a word used to refer to those who disguise themselves as Arabs. 

Wednesday’s protest was part of demonstrations and clashes that have occurred in the Palestinian territories since US President Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital on December 6. 

Four Palestinians have been killed so far in clashes or Israeli air strikes in response to rocket fire from Gaza. One Israeli has been seriously wounded in a stabbing attack in Jerusalem. 

In the West Bank city of Hebron on Wednesday, hundreds of Palestinians threw stones at Israeli soldiers, who responded with tear gas, rubber bullets and live fire, an AFP journalist reported. 

Eight people were wounded by rubber bullets and two by live fire, medics said. 

The protesters also burned a fake pig with Trump’s face on it. 

Another 3,000 people demonstrated in the northern West Bank city of Nablus, carrying banners reading “no state without Jerusalem”. 

“We came out to tell that idiot Trump that you don’t own Jerusalem to gift it to Israelis and settlers,” said Talal Dweikat of Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas’s Fatah. 

Hundreds later went to an Israeli checkpoint and clashed with Israeli soldiers. 

Jerusalem’s status is perhaps the most sensitive issue in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. 

Israel sees the entire city as its capital, while the Palestinians want the eastern sector as the capital of their future state. 

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