May 19, 2017 / 5:49 PM / 6 months ago

Palestinian protesters clash with Israeli forces in West Bank, Gaza

GAZA (Reuters) - Hundreds of Palestinian protesters clashed with Israeli forces in the West Bank and at the border of the Gaza Strip on Friday in their largest confrontation in months and just days before U.S. President Donald Trump is due to arrive in the region.

Palestinian protesters hurl stones at Israeli troops following a protest in support of Palestinian prisoners on hunger strike in Israeli jails, in the West Bank village of Beita, near Nablus May 19, 2017. REUTERS/Mohamad Torokman

Protesters took to the streets in the Israeli-occupied West Bank in support of Palestinian prisoners who declared a hunger strike last month to demand better conditions in Israeli jails.

An Israeli military spokeswoman said “violent riots” erupted with hundreds of Palestinians setting tires ablaze and hurling fire bombs and rocks at Israeli forces.

“The forces responded with crowd control means in order to disperse the riots,” the spokeswoman said.

Palestinian officials said five protesters were wounded by live gunfire and 15 hurt by rubber-coated bullets.

In the Gaza Strip, hundreds of Palestinians gathered and many approached the border fence with Israel.

“Rioters were igniting tires and hurling rocks,” said the Israeli military spokeswoman. “Forces used crowd control means in order to disperse the riots, including firing warning shots into the air and toward main perpetrators.”

Eleven Palestinians were wounded by live gunfire, three of them critically, the Palestinian Health Ministry said.

The clashes come days before Trump arrives in the region, where he will meet Israeli and Palestinian leaders.

Trump has boasted that with his negotiating skills he can bring Israelis and Palestinians together to resolve one of the world’s most intractable conflicts and do “the ultimate deal”.

But officials on both sides see scant prospects for any major breakthrough in long-stalled peace negotiations during his 24-hour visit on Monday and Tuesday.

Reporting by Nidal al-Mughrabi, Ali Sawafta, Ari Rabinovitch; Editing by Janet Lawrence

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