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World

Violence and boycotts in the West Bank

The eruption of violence between Israel and Palestinians has moved so rapidly it has been hard to keep up - from Hebron in the West Bank to East Jerusalem to Gaza. Kate Shuttleworth went back to where it all began.

Above sounds of rapid gunfire, stun grenades and tear gas, the words "Ha'ai, ha'ai, ha'ai" are yelled amidst frantic movement.

I follow the jolt of the crowd as they sprint from the corner intersection, jumping for cover inside a corner shop.

The Palestinian protesters, many of them masked, flee in a wave carrying slingshots and rocks, ducking for cover and literally running for their lives.

Inside the shop that offers freshly baked pita bread and cold drinks, I quickly learn from shop owner Mohammed that the warning cries in Arabic mean "live," signaling the bullets being fired have changed from being rubber-coated to live ammunition.

"They've been using a silencer in the past weeks too, so it makes it even harder to determine when they're coming," he said. "Last week 100 people were injured by varying types of bullets."

Young men in the street seen from behind. (Photo: Kate Shuttleworth/ DW)

Palestinian youth shelter behind a building in Hebron as live rounds and rubber bullets are fired from around the corner

The crowds slowly return to hurling rocks. Men sitting on flattened cardboard boxes continue to watch from relative safety outside the shops beyond a roundabout. At a close-by intersection, Nader Muhammed Idris, a Palestinian father of seven, was fatally shot the day before.

Badia Dwaik had known Idris since 1988. Yesterday, Dwaik said, Idris was shot in the chest by live ammunition fired by the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF).

"He was a Fatah supporter and a genuine protester - but not violent," Dwaik emphasized. "He would help by just carrying injured people away. The day before he was killed, he had been helping to collect donations for people in Gaza."

Dwaik said his friend didn't earn much money as a shoemaker and could only donate one bag of flour, so instead he volunteered his time.

Where it all began

The latest protests are focused on resisting Israeli occupation, according to human right activist Jamal Fakore, but are intertwined with opposing Israel's actions in Gaza.

It's hard to believe that Hebron and its surroundings were the epicenter of Israeli action just over a month ago. The Jewish state focused all its resources on the area when three Israeli teenagers - Naftali Fraenkel, Gilad Shaar and Eyal Yifrah - went missing from Gush Etzion junction, the entrance to an Israeli settlement in the West Bank.

Israeli forces focused their manhunt on Hebron, searching and raiding 3,200 houses and arresting 900 people. The bodies of the three youth were found at the end of June, buried in a shallow grave under rocks in a valley close to Hebron.

Benjamin Netanyahu. (Photo: EPA/JIM HOLLANDER/POOL)

Netanyahu wants revenge on Hamas

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu quickly placed the blame on Hamas saying the militant group would pay a heavy price for the death of the Israeli teens.

"Hamas is responsible, and Hamas will pay. They were kidnapped and murdered in cold blood by wild beasts," Netanyahu said at the time in a statement.

Palestinians in Hebron said they were victims of collective punishment by Israel. They had been detained, shot at, saw their homes damaged or destroyed and in some cases, like Idris', they were killed.

"Israel has been preventing Palestinians in Hebron from traveling to Jordan and around 20,000 workers with permits to work in Israel have been prevented from working purely because they are from Hebron," Badia Dwaik said.

The death of Nader Muhammed Idris brought the total number of Palestinians killed by Israeli forces at protests across the West Bank to 17 since Israeli launched its campaign on Gaza.

Refusing products from Israel

The same day bullets and rocks were being exchanged in Hebron, the Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Group (BDS) gathered in the southern West Bank city of Bethlehem to oppose the sale of products made in Israel.

Protesters in central Bethlehem entered shops bordering Manger Square and put boycott stickers all over products ranging from confectionery and bottled water to haircare items.

Organizer Munther Amira said they wanted their protests to be seen by the many tourist operators who would bring in Christian tour groups from Israel for a brief visit to key attractions like the Church of the Nativity.

Writing on an ice-cream freezer in Bethlehem, campaigners take their protest to businesses selling Israeli products in the West Bank. (Photo: Kate Shuttleworth/ DW)

Boycott this ice cream! BDS campaigners mark Israeli-made products

"We are also meeting with the municipality and chamber of commerce to help them promote the idea in solidarity with the people killed in Gaza," he said.

Despite having stickers plastered on his front shop window and the products inside, Mohammed Nabil of Nabil Pharmacy said he supported the protest.

"This is a good thing," stated Nabil. "It supports people in Gaza and I would say only up to 20 percent of my products come from Israel."

New ceasefire?

On Friday morning (08.08.2014), Hamas refused to extend the 72-hour ceasefire that expired early that morning and immediately fired rockets into Israel. Hamas had called for a full lifting of the blockade on the Gaza Strip and the construction of a seaport. This had been refused by Israel.

At a press conference in Jerusalem at the government press office, Israeli Justice Minister Tzipi Livni told reporters gathered that she "hoped for a new order in Gaza."

But the hope for peace got a new boost on Sunday (10.08.2014): Egypt had called on Israel and Palestine to enter another 72-hour ceasefire and both sides have agreed to it. The break in fighting is supposed to commence one minute past midnight on Monday.

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