Army on high alert as ‘Nakba Day’ rallies turn violent
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Army on high alert as ‘Nakba Day’ rallies turn violent

17 Palestinians wounded in clashes with IDF in West Bank; protests in Jerusalem, Gaza, Lebanon mark the ‘catastrophe’ of the establishment of Israel

Palestinians take part in a rally ahead of the commemorations of the 67th anniversary of the ''Nakba'', in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip, on May 14, 2015. '(Photo credit: Abed Rahim Khatib /Flash90)
Palestinians take part in a rally ahead of the commemorations of the 67th anniversary of the ''Nakba'', in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip, on May 14, 2015. '(Photo credit: Abed Rahim Khatib /Flash90)

Israeli soldiers fired tear gas and rubber bullets at stone-throwing Palestinians in the West Bank on Friday, wounding at least 17 people, medics and security sources said.

Clashes took place near Ramallah and farther north in Nablus, as Palestinians marked Nakba Day, an annual commemoration of the “catastrophe,” as the Palestinians refer to it, of Israel’s establishment 67 years ago.

At a demonstration outside Ofer military prison near Ramallah, dozens of protesters threw stones at soldiers who responded with riot-dispersal means. Palestinian medics said seven Palestinians were wounded.

Marches in memory of Nakba Day took place in several locations, with reports of tensions between protesters and security forces in Issawiya, in East Jerusalem, and the Qalandia checkpoint.

Al Manar TV, a Hezbollah-affiliated news network in Lebanon, reported that a group of Palestinian refugees living in Lebanon marched near the Israeli border fence to demonstrate.

Residents also marched in the Gaza Strip.

Nakba Day events began with a 67-second long siren in Palestinian cities, one second for each year that has passed since the 1948 war in which Israel won its independence, and some 700,000 Palestinians were displaced through fighting or expulsion.

Palestinian groups, including the Nakba Memorial Committee and the Resistance Committee, published ads calling for “Palestinian unity through the path of Jihad and uprising to exterminate those who try to bury the Palestinian issue and hurt the rights of the Palestinian people.”

The ads also said that the “Zionists are occupying our land and our holy places. The occupation is trying to destroy al-Aqsa Mosque and to establish the [Jewish] Temple. We must fight against this scheme in order to save the places holy to Islam.”

Palestinians take part in a rally ahead of the commemorations of the 67th anniversary of the ''Nakba'', in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip, on May 14, 2015. (Photo credit: Abed Rahim Khatib /Flash90)
Palestinians take part in a rally ahead of the commemorations of the 67th anniversary of the ”Nakba”, in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip, on May 14, 2015. (Photo credit: Abed Rahim Khatib /Flash90)

The Resistance Committee’s call to action warned that “any attempt at resolving the problem [the Israeli-Palestinian conflict] through political initiatives at the expense of Palestinian rights will not succeed. Palestinian land is Waqf [religious trust] territory and cannot be given up. What was taken by force will only be returned through force,” the NRG website quoted the group as saying.

Marchers in various locations held signs combining the colors of the Palestinian flag and the shape of a key, symbolizing homes Palestinians abandoned during the 1948 war.

A Palestinian activist tweeted a photo of residents of Gaza marking Nakba Day in Shejaiya, a neighborhood in the eastern part of the Strip which was among the worst hit in Israel’s two-month war with Hamas last summer.

Earlier Friday, at least 10 Palestinians were wounded in the West Bank city of Nablus, security sources and witnesses said. Palestinian sources claimed Israeli troops used rubber bullets and live fire. The IDF confirmed that clashes took place, but denied its forces used live rounds.

The clashes began after more than 1,000 settlers from nearby Jewish settlements were bussed into the city to visit Joseph’s Tomb early in the day, and soldiers blocked off roads leading to the pilgrimage site.

The Palestinians protested, some throwing stones, before clashes broke out with the army.

A spokeswoman for the military said the army had “escorted” up to 3,000 Jewish visitors to the tomb since Wednesday evening, and that a crowd of some 200 Palestinians had approached the area throwing stones and burning tires.

Soldiers responded with riot dispersal means, she said, but denied that live rounds had been fired.

— AFP contributed to this report.

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