Middle East

Clashes over hunger-striking Palestinian prisoners

Hundreds of Palestinians have clashed with Israeli forces across the West Bank and East Jerusalem, amid protests over hunger-striking prisoners.

Stun grenades were fired "to disperse rioters" in the al-Aqsa Mosque compound in Jerusalem, after protesters there threw stones at police, officials said.

There were also clashes in Hebron and near Nablus, Jenin and Ramallah.

It follows a week of violence amid calls for four Palestinian hunger strikers to be released.

Reuters news agency cited witnesses as saying dozens of people were lightly wounded in clashes at a military checkpoint near Nablus and outside Ofer military prison near Ramallah, where the prisoners are detained.

Two of the prisoners - Samer Issawi and Ayman Sharawna - were released under a prisoner exchange deal which freed Israel captive Gilad Shalit from Gaza in 2011, but later rearrested - Issawi for breaching his release conditions and Sharawna for undisclosed reasons.

AFP news agency says Sharawna is an alleged Hamas activist involved in attacks on Israelis.

The other prisoners - Tareq Qaadan and Jafar Ezzedine - are being held under "administrative detention", a controversial practice whereby suspects can be imprisoned without charge or trial for renewable periods of up to six months at a time.

The Israeli military says it uses administrative detention when it fears an immediate risk to security or to protect informants.

On Thursday, Issawi was convicted of breaching his release conditions by travelling from his home in East Jerusalem to the West Bank, his lawyer said.

AFP said Issawi was sentenced to eight months in jail, which is due to expire next month because he was arrested on 7 July. However, he could be ordered to serve out the remainder of his original 16-year sentence when he faces a separate military court also next month, AFP says.

Issawi was initially arrested in 2002, and in 2004 sentenced to 26 years in prison. He was convicted of being a member of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), proscribed by Israel as a terrorist group, and of shooting at Israeli vehicles.

The Israel Prison Service (IPS) says Issawi has been on hunger strike, on and off, since September 2012. He is said to weigh less than 50kg.

For most of his strike, he has been taking only water as well as vitamins, minerals and sugars.

An IPS spokesperson said earlier this week the four prisoners were in "satisfactory condition" and receiving medical treatment as needed, but they had lost the right to family visits when they began their protests.

As of December 2012, Israel held 4,517 Palestinians in its jails.

Of these 1,031 are being held until the conclusion of legal proceedings, 178 are in administrative detention and 170 are under 18 years of age.