Israeli police said a Palestinian attacker was killed after he tried to stab officers near Jerusalem as President Donald Trump visited the city on Monday, while clashes erupted in the West Bank as Palestinians declared a strike in solidarity with hundreds of hunger striking prisoners held in Israeli jails. Police said the attempted stabbing occurred near Abu Dis, a Palestinian town on the outskirts of Jerusalem. She said the assailant was running at police officers with a knife when he was shot. Trump was visiting Jerusalem’s Old City, just a few miles (kilometers) away, at the time.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas met Monday evening with families of some of the Palestinian prisoners observing the mass hunger strike. Abbas told them he is trying to reach an agreement with Israel to end the strike.
Hundreds of Palestinian prisoners held by Israel are on an open-ended hunger strike, now in its 36th day, saying they seek to improve their prison conditions. Israel says strike leader Marwan Barghouti, a potential successor to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, is using it to raise his political profile. Israel has released footage it says shows Barghouti breaking his fast. Palestinians say it is a fabrication.
Barghouti is serving five life sentences after being convicted by Israel of directing two shooting attacks and a bombing. The strike has wide support among Palestinians. After decades of conflict, hundreds of thousands of Palestinians have been imprisoned for acts ranging from stone-throwing to carrying out attacks that killed or wounded civilians and soldiers. There have been several large Palestinian protests in support of the strike since it began.
Dozens of Palestinian youths clashed with Israeli troops, and Palestinian shopkeepers shuttered their stores across the West Bank and east Jerusalem in solidarity with the prisoners on Monday. The strike coincided with the arrival of Trump for a two-day visit to Israel and the Palestinian territories. Although the protests were not directly aimed against the president, organizers hoped to draw attention to their cause.The heaviest violence occurred at the Qalandia checkpoint on the outskirts of Jerusalem, where dozens of Palestinian youths set tires and garbage on fire and hurled bottles and stones at Israeli troops.
The army said troops responded with tear gas and rubber bullets. The Palestinian Health Ministry said three people were wounded by live fire, a claim denied by the military. Protesters blocked roads elsewhere in the West Bank. Stores and government offices closed down, public transportation ground to a halt and main thoroughfares in Palestinian cities were empty of people and cars. Shop owners in east Jerusalem also closed their stores in solidarity. A Palestinian advocacy group says several of the hundreds of hunger striking prisoners have been hospitalized.
The Palestinian prisoners’ affairs committee called for a ”day of rage” on Tuesday, when Trump visits the West Bank town Bethlehem, for ”the voice of the prisoners to be heard by the president.”