In what evolved into the largest demonstration in a decade, tens of thousands of Palestinians from throughout the occupied West Bank and Jerusalem protested on Thursday against Israel’s assault on Gaza, launching demonstrations that evolved into clashes with soldiers.
Organized around the hashtag #48kmarch, activists gathered at al-Am’ari Refugee Camp outside Ramallah — the de facto capital of the West Bank — before marching to Qalandia Checkpoint, a major point of entry in the separation wall that divides the West Bank and Jerusalem.
In order to obscure Israeli soldiers’ vision, protesters set tires ablaze at the forefront, billowing thick, black smoke into the air. The demonstrators threw rocks and Molotov cocktails at Israeli forces, and aimed fireworks that illuminated the night sky.
After firing tear gas, Israeli soldiers shot live ammunition into the massive crowd in attempts to repress the demonstration. Ambulances struggled to maneuver through densely crowded streets to attend to the wounded.
According to Haaretz, the Al-Aqsa Brigades, the armed wing of the Palestinian faction Fatah, opened fire on Israeli forces at the checkpoint. No injuries to Israeli forces were reported.
A 17-year-old Palestinian protestor Mohammad al-Araj was reportedly shot and killed by Israeli police late Thursday during the protest, while six others are in “extremely serious condition.” Approximately 200 were injured by live ammunition.
Lena Tamimi, a Palestinian activist, described the scene at the front: “We were in the front row and one of the girls was shot with an explosive [dum-dum] bullet in her leg. We didn’t even have ambulances so we had to take her in one of the cars to the hospital.”
The scene at Ramallah Hospital was chaotic. A constant stream of ambulances and private vehicles delivered injured protesters to the emergency room. Hundreds of Palestinians gathered in front of the hospital to await news on the conditions of wounded friends and family members.
Ramallah Hospital’s emergency room was operating beyond capacity. Gurneys were in short supply and some injured protesters were placed on the ground while they awaited medical attention. Mattresses were brought into the emergency room to provide some form of comfort for the wounded.
The neighboring blood bank had a shortage, but was able to recover by morning because of donations from those waiting at the hospital. Officials anticipate that blood shortages will arise as injuries result from repression on demonstrators.
“Tonight was a night out of the Second Intifada,” Rajai Abu Khalil, a surgeon at Ramallah Hospital, told VICE News.