Gunshots fired as Palestinians rally against Israeli policies in West Bank

The bombardment of Gaza appears to be motivating rare collective action, ITV News Global Security Editor Rohit Kachroo reports

In a so-called Day of Rage, Palestinians have taken to the streets in their hundreds to rally against Israel's bombardment of Gaza.

Clashes with Israeli troops happen often in the West Bank, but on Tuesday the protesters were armed as gunshots rang out on both sides.

In Ramallah, where an ITV News team took cover from gunfire, three Palestinians were reportedly killed while two Israeli soldiers were injured.

It came as Palestinians across Israel and the occupied territories went on strike in collective action against the state’s policies.

With the war in Gaza showing no sign of abating and truce efforts apparently stalled, the general strike and expected protests could widen the conflict after a spasm of communal violence in Israel and protests across the occupied West Bank last week.

Palestinians clash with Israeli forces at the Hawara checkpoint, south of the West Bank city of Nablus. Credit: AP

The strike was intended to protest against the Gaza war and Israeli policies that many activists and some rights groups say constitute an overarching system of apartheid that denies Palestinians the rights afforded to Jews.

Israel rejects that characterisation, saying its citizens have equal rights. It blames the war on Hamas, the Islamic militant group that controls Gaza, and accuses it of inciting violence across the region.

It was a rare show of unity among Palestinian citizens of Israel, who make up 20% of its population, and those in the territories Israel seized in 1967 that the Palestinians have long sought for a future state of their own.

Leaders of the Palestinian community in Israel called the strike, which was embraced by the internationally-backed Palestinian Authority in the occupied West Bank, where ministries and schools were closed.

ITV News Senior International Correspondent John Irvine on why the violence looks set to continue

Most businesses appeared to be observing the strike, and protests were expected.

Muhammad Barakeh, one of the organisers of the strike, said Palestinians are expressing a “collective position” against Israel’s “aggression” in Gaza and Jerusalem, as well as the “brutal repression” by police across Israel.

Meanwhile, amid the continued fighting, a strike launched from Gaza has killed two Thai workers inside a packaging plant in Israel.

The Magen David Adom rescue service said it transported another seven wounded people to the hospital after the projectile attack.

How has the US responded to the conflict? ITV News US Correspondent analyses the latest developments on diplomatic efforts in a bid to try and bring an end to the troubles to Israel and Gaza

Israel’s air strikes toppled a six-storey building that housed book stores and educational centres used by the Islamic University and other colleges, leaving behind a massive mound of rubble.

Israel warned the building’s residents ahead of time and there were no reports of casualties. Israel said it was targeting militants, their tunnels and rocket launchers across the territory.

Palestinians chant slogans while taking part in an anti-Israel demonstration during a general strike in the West Bank city of Ramallah Credit: AP/Nasser Nasser

When did the violence begin?

Heavy fighting broke out on May 10 when Gaza’s militant Hamas rulers fired long-range rockets towards Jerusalem in support of Palestinian protests against Israel’s heavy-handed policing of the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, a flashpoint site sacred to Jews and Muslims, and the threatened eviction of dozens of Palestinian families by Jewish settlers.

At least 213 Palestinians have been killed in heavy air strikes since, including 61 children and 36 women, with more than 1,440 people wounded, according to the Gaza Health Ministry, which does not break the numbers down into fighters and civilians.

As the fighting drags on, medical supplies, fuel and water are running low in Gaza.

Among those reported killed on Monday was Dr Ayman Abu Al-Ouf, the head of the internal medicine department at Shifa Hospital and a senior member of the hospital’s coronavirus management committee.

Two of Abu Al-Ouf’s teenage children and two other family members were also buried under the rubble.

As the fighting drags on, medical supplies, fuel and water are running low in Gaza, which is home to more than 2 million Palestinians and has been under an Israeli-Egyptian blockade since Hamas seized power from rival Palestinian forces in 2007.

A man stands amid the rubble following an Israeli air strike in Gaza City Credit: AP

Nearly 47,000 Palestinians have fled their homes. Israeli attacks have damaged at least 18 hospitals and clinics and entirely destroyed one health facility, the World Health Organization said in a new report. Nearly half of all essential drugs in the territory have run out.

The WHO said the bombing of key roads, including those leading to the main Shifa Hospital, has hindered the movement of ambulances and supply vehicles in Gaza, which was already struggling to cope with a coronavirus outbreak.

Twelve people in Israel, including a five-year-old boy and a soldier, have been killed in the ongoing rocket attacks launched from civilian areas in Gaza towards civilian areas in Israel.

The fighting is the most intense since a 2014 war between Israel and Hamas, but efforts to halt it have so far stalled.

Egyptian mediators are trying to negotiate a ceasefire, but the US has stopped short of demanding an immediate stop to the hostilities and Israel has so far vowed to press on.

A Palestinian man sits in front of closed shops during a general strike, in the West Bank city of Nablus. Credit: AP

On Monday, US President Joe Biden expressed support for a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas in a call to Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu - but he did not explicitly demand a stop to the Israeli air strikes and Hamas rocket barrages.

Life had already ground to a halt in Gaza when the fighting began.

The war has also seen an unusual outbreak of violence in Israel, with groups of Jewish and Palestinian citizens fighting in the streets and torching vehicles and buildings.

In both Israel and the West Bank, Palestinian protesters have clashed with Israeli forces.

A Palestinian protester hurls back a tear gas canister fired by Israeli soldiers Credit: Majdi Mohammed/AP

The Israeli military said it fired at 65 militant targets, including rocket launchers, a group of fighters and the homes of Hamas commanders that the army said were being used for military purposes.

It said more than 60 fighter jets took part in the operation.

The military said it also shot down a drone “approaching the Israeli border” in the north-east, far from the Gaza fighting.