One Palestinian death mars largely peaceful mass protest on Land Day
Protester seriously injured in Bethlehem
BETHLEHEM — A Palestinian protester was seriously injured in Bethlehem on Friday after being hit in the face by a tear-gas canister, a Ma’an correspondent said.
Muhammad Arafa, 20, was taken to hospital in Hebron. He was injured when Israeli forces fired tear-gas canisters and stun grenades at Palestinians who threw stones at a checkpoint in a rally marking Land Day.
Activists also called for the Global March to Jerusalem to commemorate the anniversary of Israel’s killing of six Palestinians protesting against land confiscation in 1976.
Thousands rallied at checkpoints around Jerusalem and in Gaza, Lebanon and Jordan.
Israeli forces fired tear gas, sound grenades, sprayed foul-smelling water and used a “scream” acoustic device against stone-throwing Palestinians at Qalandia near Ramallah.
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 over two dozen people.
Hamas forces set up checkpoints to prevent protesters reaching the border area.
Gaza medical official Adham Abu Salmiya said 26 people were wounded near Beit Hanoun, including three with serious injuries, and six were wounded near Khan Younis.
Over 15,000 people gathered in Kafrein in Jordan, around 10 kilometers from the border with the West Bank, Agence France-Presse reported.
Israeli forces were put on high alert on the frontiers with Lebanon and Syria, but there were no reports of anyone nearing the border fences.
Previous Land Day remembrances have mostly passed quietly, but Israel decided to reinforce its defenses this year following deadly clashes along the Lebanese and Syrian borders in May and June that appeared to catch the military off guard.
Protest organizers called for peaceful rallies Friday against “the policies and practices of the racist Zionist state” and said solidarity protests were planned in some 80 nations.
“When crowds from 80 countries move towards Jerusalem, they send a strong message to the Israeli occupation that no one can accept what they are doing in Jerusalem,” said Gaza premier Ismail Haniyeh.
By Ali Sawafta and Jihan Abdalla, Reuters
JERUSALEM – Israeli security forces shot dead one man in the Gaza Strip on Friday, medics said, and clashed with Palestinian stone-throwers around Jerusalem during “Land Day” rallies that turned violent.
Border police fired tear gas, rubber bullets and stun grenades at crowds of Palestinian youths who tried to break past checkpoints to the north and south of Jerusalem in coordinated protests to mark Israeli land confiscations in the 1970s.
Medics in the Gaza Strip said the soldiers used live fire to prevent protesters from approaching the border of the coastal enclave, killing a 20-year-old man and wounding 37 others.
Palestinian activists called for a “Global March to Jerusalem” to coincide with the 36th anniversary of so-called Land Day, and although there were rallies in Israel, police said crowd numbers were relatively small and largely trouble free.
Israeli forces were put on high alert on the frontiers with Lebanon and Syria, but there were no reports of anyone nearing the frontier fences, unlike last year when several demonstrators were killed in separate protests.
Violence flared at checkpoints in the occupied West Bank to the north and south of Jerusalem. Witnesses also reported disturbances at gateways into the Old City, with police limiting access to the Muslims’ revered al-Aqsa Mosque.
A West Bank medic said 220 people were hurt in the clashes, but none was thought to be in serious condition.
Jerusalem is a focal point of conflict, as Palestinians want the city’s eastern sector, captured by Israel in a 1967 war, as capital of a future state. Israel has annexed East Jerusalem as part of its capital and says the city must remain united.
“We are determined to march together toward Jerusalem, and hopefully we will break through and reach it,” said a masked youth, calling himself Rimawi, as he faced off against soldiers on the edge of the West Bank city Ramallah, near Jerusalem.
Flag-waving crowds neared the Qalandiya crossing out of Ramallah, some of them hurling stones at the security forces, but were forced back when border police fired tear gas and sprayed them with foul smelling liquid from a water cannon.
There were also confrontations in Bethlehem, where Palestinians threw petrol bombs at an Israeli watchtower. One man was critically wounded when he was hit in the head by a tear gas canister, activists said.
Land Day commemorates the killing of six Arabs in 1976 during protests against the confiscation of their land in Israel’s Galilee region. Arabs make up around 20 percent of Israel’s total population and often complain of discrimination.
Previous annual remembrances have mostly passed quietly, but Israel decided to reinforce its defenses this year following deadly clashes along the Lebanese and Syrian frontiers in May and June that appeared to catch the military off guard.
Israel is wary of growing unrest in the Palestinian Territories, with peace talks stalled for months and Palestinian leaders refusing to return to the negotiating table until Israel halts all Jewish settlement building in the West Bank.
Leading Palestinian activist Marwan Barghouti, serving multiple life sentences in an Israeli jail for allegedly orchestrating suicide attacks, called on Monday for a new wave of civil resistance in the decades-long quest for statehood.