Clashes broke out between Palestinian protesters and Israeli forces in the West Bank on Monday amid a general strike over a law recognizing Israel as the “nation-state of the Jewish people”.
Israeli forces fired rubber bullets and tear gas canisters to disperse stone-throwing Palestinians at the entrances of Ramallah and al-Bireh cities in central West Bank, according to local residents.
Protesters blocked roads with barricades and set tyres ablaze amid chants against the Israeli law, which was passed by the Knesset (Israel’s parliament) in July.
Similar clashes were reported in the West Bank town of Nabi Saleh and the cities of Nablus, Qalqilya and Hebron.
No information was yet available about injuries.
On Monday, Palestinians staged a general strike in the West Bank and Gaza Strip in support of Israeli-Arabs protesting the nation-state law. The legislation defines Israel as a Jewish state with a “united Jerusalem” as its capital. It has also promoted Hebrew as the only official language, stripping Arabic as an official language while recognizing its “special status”.
The controversial law risks further alienating the Arab minority who argue they already face discrimination from Israeli Jews and the government and already feel as though they are second-class citizens.
The general strike coincides with the killing of 13 Israeli-Arabs by Israeli police at the start of the 2000 Palestinian intifada, triggered by a controversial visit by then opposition leader Ariel Sharon to East Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa Mosque compound.
For Muslims, Al-Aqsa represents the world's third holiest site. Jews, for their part, refer to the area as the "Temple Mount", claiming it was the site of two Jewish temples in ancient times.
Jerusalem remains at the heart of the Middle East conflict, with Palestinians hoping that East Jerusalem -- occupied by Israel since 1967 -- might eventually serve as the capital of an independent Palestinian state.