Protests in occupied West Bank against Israeli annexation plan


Tulkarem (Palestinian Territories) (AFP)

Palestinians in the West Bank on Friday rallied to mark 53 years of Israeli occupation and protest against the Jewish state's plans to annex part of the territory.

In Tulkarem, in the northern West Bank, dozens of demonstrators waved Palestinian flags and chanted slogans against Israeli settlements and the plans, which could move ahead as soon as next month.

An AFP reporter at the scene said that Israeli troops fired stun grenades and tear gas to repel protesters approaching a military checkpoint.

Further protests were expected in the West Bank cities of Ramallah, Hebron and Nablus.

Palestinians are vocal in their opposition to US President Donald Trump's Middle East plan, which gives Israel the green light to annex Jewish settlements and other strategic territory in the West Bank.

Such annexations would violate international law and likely inflame tensions in the volatile region.

After more than a year of political deadlock and two inconclusive elections, veteran Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his nearest rival Benny Gantz in April joined in a coalition government.

Under their agreement, from July 1 Netanyahu and Gantz can submit the Trump plan to their cabinet and to parliament, with a view to endorsement.

The plan also envisions the creation of a Palestinian state, but on reduced territory and without meeting the key Palestinian demand of having its capital in east Jerusalem.

Friday's protests coincided with the anniversary of what Palestinians call the Naksa, the defeat of Arab countries by Israel in the Six-Day War of June 1967.

The fighting ended with Egypt, Jordan and Syria vanquished and Israel occupying the West Bank, the Sinai Peninsula, the Gaza Strip, east Jerusalem and Syria's Golan Heights.

Sinai was returned to Egypt in a 1979 peace accord with Israel but the Golan and east Jerusalem were annexed by the Jewish state.

Israeli troops and settlers vacated Gaza in 2005 but the coastal strip remains under blockade.

"Fifty-three years of Israeli occupation today, ending it is an international responsibility," Saeb Erekat, secretary general of the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO), wrote on Twitter.

More than 450,000 Israelis live in settlements deemed illegal by international law in the West Bank, where 2.7 million Palestinians live.