Israel’s conflict in Gaza has officially spread to the West Bank. About 10,000 Palestinians protested the Israeli military campaign against Hamas Thursday night as the death toll in Gaza topped 800.
The epicenter of the protests was the Qalandiya checkpoint, which separates Jerusalem and Ramallah, while smaller protests reportedly took place in the West Bank towns of Bethlehem and Nablus. At least two Palestinians were killed and 200 others were injured after IDF troops returned fire to the protestors during Laylat al-Qadr, a holiday marking the night the first verses of the Quran are believed to have been revealed to the prophet Muhammad.
“In the West Bank, we need to take our resistance efforts to a higher level,” a student named Na’el Halabi told Al Jazeera. “Gaza is not alone: we are part of the same struggle.”
This “day of rage” was evidently called for by Fatah, the party of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. Often considered the preferred, more moderate alternative to Hamas by Western leaders, Fatah has recently felt pressure to build up support among its constituency by standing up to the West. Thursday’s protests are believed to be the largest since the end of the 2000–2005 uprising. Organized as the “48K March,” they were quickly branded with the “Third Intifada” hashtag on Twitter:
This certainly isn’t great news for peace talks in the region.
Secretary of State John Kerry visited Israel and the West Bank on Wednesday, where he met with Israeli and Palestinian leaders in hopes of negotiating a ceasefire. According to reports, Kerry has proposed a new, one-week ceasefire agreement that would allow Israel to continue targeting Hamas tunnels while Egypt mediates a longer-term agreement. The U.S., meanwhile, would ensure that key needs of both sides are being met. Yet the new protests in the West Bank may aggravate tensions before a peace agreement can be reached.
Both Israeli and Palestinian leaders were expected to respond to the ceasefire proposal on Friday. Needless to say, Kerry now has his work cut out for him.