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Jerusalem: troops fire on Palestinian protesters

Israeli forces surrounded but did not ultimately attack the Ahfad Younis protest camp estabished by Palestinian activists outside Jerusalem during Obama's visit to Israel and the West Bank. But as Obama moved on to Jordan March 23, two Palestinian youths were critically wounded as Israeli forces fired rubber-coated steel bullets on protester at Anata north of Jerusalem. Several people suffered from tear-gas inhalation. Five people were also injured in the Ramallah area village of Beit Liqya during a protest against Israel's separation wall. (Maan News AgencyAl-Monitor, March 22)

The Obama visit was hailed as winning breakthroughs. At Obama's brokering, Israel apologized to Turkey on March 23 for killing nine Turkish citizens in the 2010 naval raid on a Gaza aid flotilla, and the two US allies agreed to normalize relations. (Reuters, March 22)

But militants fired two rockets into southern Israel from the Gaza Strip early March 22, when Obama was in Jerusalem. The rockets exploded in Sderot, causing no casualties. In response to the attack,  Israel suspended part of a Cairo-brokered truce agreement by halving Palestinian access to fishing waters, prompting Hamas to complain to Egypt. (Reuters, March 22; AP, March 21)

Prime Minister Netanyahu's speech upon greeting Obama at Ben Gurion Airport March 20 was effusive, containing this telling ine: "Thank you for unequivocally affirming Israel’s sovereign right to defend itself by itself against any threat. Thank you for enhancing Israel’s’ ability to exercise that right through generous military assistance, revolutionary missile defense programs, and unprecedented security and intelligence cooperation." (Ha'aretz, March 20)

But Obama's speech in Jerusalem the next day was heckled by an Arab Israeli student in response to the suggestion that the Palestinians drop their demand for a halt to Israeli settlement construction as a prerequisite for a return to peace talks. The political science student, Rabbea Eid, said, "President Obama, did you come to make peace or to support Israel and the Israeli occupation?" (The Lede, March 22)

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