Some 2,000 Arab-Israelis participated in a Land Day march in Taibe on Friday, 24 hours before the commemoration day’s main rally was set to take place in Sakhnin, in northern Israel. Additional protests took place in the West Bank, in Ramallah, Hebron and Bil’in, where an 80-year-old activist was reportedly lightly injured by a rubber bullet.
The Land Day rallies are an annual event marked by Israeli Arabs and Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza to protest what they view as discriminatory Israeli land policies. It was instituted following the killing of six Arab citizens of Israel by soldiers and policemen during protests against government land seizures in 1976.
Arab MKs Ahmad Tibi and Mohammed Barakeh were in attendance at the Taibe procession.
Although no specific alerts were issued, police and the military were placed on high alert in view of the potentially incendiary atmosphere around Land Day events. Security forces presence was beefed up in East Jerusalem and across the West Bank.
Recent weeks have seen an upsurge in Palestinian terror attacks, mostly rock throwing incidents and Molotov cocktail attacks aimed at settlers, leading some to suggest that Israel will soon face a Third Intifada. Palestinians, frustrated with lack of progress on the diplomatic front and protesting the detainment of Palestinians in Israeli prisons, have taken to holding mass demonstrations, some of which turn violent.
Last year, organizers ramped up the Land Day protest with the “Global March to Jerusalem,” when tens of thousands took part in Land Day demonstrations in Syria, Lebanon, and Jordan. Though organizers had threatened they would attempt to cross the borders into Israel, security forces on both sides kept them from getting too close.
“The trick is knowing where to put the troops on hold,” a senior IDF officer was quoted by Israeli Radio as saying at the time. “We learn how to navigate those days, based on what it looked like last year, and the year before that. The secret lies in mounting strong military presence in potential hot spots. The very existence of a military presence can suffice to stymie the rallying, and in the event it occurs, you have a head start over the other side.”
Hamas’s Gaza prime minister Ismail Haniyeh said Friday that his organization would never acknowledge the right of “the Zionist entity” to “a single grain of Palestinian land.”
“Occupiers have no future in the land of Palestine,” Haniyeh announced during a speech at the Shati refugee camp, criticizing the Ramallah-based government of the Palestinian Authority for clinging to “illusions of peace” and succumbing to American pressure.