Violent clashes hit Palestinian Land Day

Violent clashes hit Palestinian Land Day

Violent clashes hit Palestinian Land Day

Israeli policemen disperse hundreds of Palestinian protesters during a demonstration marking Land Day in east Jerusalem. Rallies also held at Jordan and Lebanon border. AFP photo

Israeli security forces fired rubber bullets, tear gas and stun grenades to break up small groups of Palestinian stone-throwers on March 30 as annual Land Day rallies turned violent around Jerusalem.

Medics in the Gaza Strip said the Israeli army also used live fire to prevent protesters from approaching frontier barriers in the small coastal territory, wounding nine people, including one seriously.

The annual event commemorates the deaths of six Arab Israeli protesters at the hands of Israeli forces during mass demonstrations in 1976 against plans to confiscate Arab land in northern Israel.

Palestinian activists called for a “Global March to Jerusalem” to mark the day.

Israeli forces were put on high alert on the frontiers with Lebanon and Syria. However, violence flared at checkpoints in the occupied West Bank to the north and south of Jerusalem. Tensions were also high at the Qalandia checkpoint, just north of Jerusalem, as Palestinian youths hurled rocks and set tyres alight, with Israeli troops firing a barrage of tear gas, rubber bullets and stun grenades to break up the protest. Palestinian medics said they had treated 39 people, most of them for tear gas inhalation, while seven were injured by rubber bullets. In anticipation of mass protests, the Israeli army imposed a 24-hour closure on the occupied territories late on March 29, and police imposed an age limit on worshippers attending the main weekly Muslim prayers at the flashpoint al-Aqsa Mosque.

Masses rally at the borders
In south Lebanon, hundreds of Palestinian refugees gathered near the historic Beaufort Castle where roadside banners proclaimed: “Jerusalem, here we come!” Large numbers of Lebanese troops were deployed in the area and barbed wire was erected to ensure no one approached the flashpoint frontier. In Jordan, more than 15,000 people, including opposition Islamists and Palestinians, joined a sit-in in Kafrein, some 10 kilometers from the Allenby crossing and barely a kilometer from the border, security officials said, saying the rally was “a peaceful sit-in.”

Israel has been hoping to avoid a repeat of the bloody confrontations that took place last May when thousands gathered along the Lebanon border on Nakba Day to protest on the anniversary of Israel’s creation in 1948.