Palestinians stage protests against Mideast peace conference

HALHUL, West Bank (AP) — Hundreds of Palestinians protested throughout the West Bank against this week’s economic conference in Bahrain that will kick off the Trump administration’s plan for Mideast peace.

Palestinians on Monday poured into the streets of West Bank cities, from Hebron to Nablus, many burning effigies of President Trump and Bahrain’s king. Protesters in Ramallah, the seat of the Palestinian Authority, carried a giant coffin labeled “Bahrain workshop,” and signs reading “The Deal of the Century is doomed.”

Dozens of youths in the southern city of Halhul set tires ablaze and slung stones at Israeli soldiers, who responded with tear gas and rubber bullets.

In the Gaza Strip, protest turnout was meager. A single man dressed as the late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, stood on the street in Gaza City holding a sign that read “Deal of the Devil” and crossed-out Israeli and American flags.

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“My message to the meeting in Bahrain, is let us alone, let us in peace,” said Ibrahim al-Nahal. “We don’t need your money … no one can stop the Palestinian revolution.”

Gaza’s Hamas rulers have called for mass demonstrations later in the week.

Meanwhile, multiple fires erupted in Israel’s southern farmlands, which local officials blamed on incendiary balloons launched from the Gaza Strip.

The Palestinian Authority has rejected the U.S. peace proposal and is boycotting the workshop in Bahrain, where the Trump administration’s Mideast peace team hopes to drum up regional support and secure financial pledges from Arab and Israeli stakeholders.

Accusing the U.S. of unfairly favoring Israel, Palestinians say an economic component can’t pre-empt a political settlement.

The plan calls for $50 billion for investment and infrastructure projects in the Palestinian territories and neighboring Arab states, intended to lay the groundwork for the plan’s still mysterious political component.

There are serious doubts about the feasibility of the proposal, which does not address the half-century-old Israeli military occupation that has largely restricted the West Bank’s economic and infrastructural growth.

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