Ramallah, West Bank—The bullet was still lodged in Ahmad Kittaneh’s right lung when he arrived at Ramallah Hospital late on a Thursday night. The 22-year-old went into cardiac arrest twice, but miraculously pulled through after having been shot by Israeli soldiers at the Qalandia checkpoint, which separates the West Bank from Jerusalem.
On July 24, about 10,000 Palestinians, many of them young men like Kittaneh, turned out in full force to show solidarity with their Gaza compatriots who had been pounded by Israeli artillery for approximately three weeks. Today Gazans are breathing a sigh of relief as a three-day Egyptian-sponsored truce appears to be holding up, while Cairo talks to Palestinian and Israeli delegates separately on ways to end the war.
The July 24 demonstration, which appears to have been the largest since the second intifada, included Palestinians from all walks of life– elderly men, women with strollers, people in wheelchairs. They marched from Al Am’ari refugee camp in Ramallah towards Qalandia. Many had Palestinian flags in tow, but the factional banners of Hamas and Fatah were largely absent. The march was eventually met with Israeli fire.
Kittaneh was one of three critically injured that day—the other two were separately shot in the left eye and right atrium of the heart—but his close encounter with death seems to have not deterred him. “I would go back to protests again,” said Kittaneh, who studies journalism at a university near Jerusalem. “This is a national duty for every one of us.”
Kittaneh’s ordeal started a few days prior to the shooting, when he, along with several other young men, tried to march to Beit El, the Israeli military compound on the outskirts of Ramallah. There, he was met with another force—Palestinian Authority (PA) security—which Kittaneh said “showered” protesters with tear gas and stun grenades, driving them away from the military base.
“The only time I ever get tear gassed is—ironically—at the hands of the PA forces,” he said. “I tried to reason with these guys, tell them that there’s nowhere else for people to go to vent their anger, but they weren’t listening.”
The PA’s relationship with its constituents here has become strained over the years as encounters like Kittaneh’s have increased. Security forces have tried to stop frustrated Palestinians from approaching Israeli military outposts or checkpoints many times, often with brutal force.
But despite these efforts, protests fuelled by anger over Gaza’s ordeal have continued, and, in the last few weeks, become an almost daily occurrence. Multiple different demonstrations are taking place from Hebron in the south to Nablus in the north—a big jump compared to three months ago, or compared to the past few years of relative quiet in the West Bank.
In the last two weeks, three separate attacks on Israelis took place in the West Bank and Jerusalem, and two Palestinian men participating in separate protests in villages near Tulkarem and Ramallah were shot dead. These skirmishes, coupled with the massive protests that Kittaneh took part in, have left many wondering if they were witnessing the beginning of a formal Intifada—or if the uprising would just patter out over time.