Thousands of Arab Israelis participated in annual Nakba Day demonstrations across the country on Saturday, in memory of the “catastrophe” of the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948.
The rallies are held every year on May 15, the anniversary of Israel’s Declaration of Independence. Israelis celebrate their state’s establishment on the Hebrew date, which shifts from year to year according to the Judaic calendar.
The day — which often sees charged mass protests in Israel, the West Bank and Gaza — comes amidst widespread civil unrest in Israel and ongoing hostilities between the Jewish state and Gaza’s Hamas rulers.
“The right to protest is a fundamental right, and we will continue to go out and demonstrate, to shout against the killing, the war and the attacks in Gaza,” said Ta’al MK Osama Sa’adi at a demonstration attended by thousands in Sakhnin.
Most of the demonstrations seemed to go off without a hitch, however, with no major clashes reported between Arab Israelis and security forces.
Jews and Arabs also demonstrated across the country on Saturday to call for coexistence amid the escalating violence within the country. Israel has seen increasing civil unrest in recent days, with Arab and Jewish mobs targeting members of the other ethnicity in nationalist violence that has swept the country.
Hundreds of protesters gathered in Jaffa the day after a home in the Ajami neighborhood was firebombed, injuring two Arab children — a 12-year-old boy and a 10-year-old girl.
Surveillance footage from the incident showed two hooded figures walking in an alleyway near the home before it was attacked. The boy was hospitalized in serious condition and under sedation, with burns to his upper body.
“We arrived in Jaffa today to strengthen the residents in their struggle with the rampant violence of the settlers and the police in the city. The residents of the city deserve security every day and these days especially,” said Ta’al party leader Ahmad Tibi.
Others at the protest held signs calling for an end to Israeli military rule in the West Bank and condemning Israeli “aggression” in Gaza.
In Ramle, Jews and Arabs called for peaceful coexistence following a week of heavy clashes in the city. Later that night, Jewish demonstrators reportedly stoned an Arab car in the mixed city.
Several hundred rallied in Tel Aviv to call for civil calm in the aftermath of the unrest. The rally was organized by the Jewish-Arab solidarity organization Standing Together. Demonstrators carried signs calling for “peace and equality,” insisting that they won’t allow a return to the status quo.
Palestinian terrorists in Gaza have fired over 2,300 rockets toward Israel since the outbreak of fighting on Monday, according to the Israel Defense Forces.
Ten Israelis, including a young child, have been killed in the rocket fire, and hundreds have been injured.
The death toll climbed to 145 on Saturday in Gaza, including 45 children, with over 1,000 wounded, according to the Hamas-run Gaza health ministry.
Hamas and Islamic Jihad have confirmed 20 deaths in their ranks, though Israel says that number is much higher and that dozens of those killed were terrorists. In addition, the IDF says some deaths were caused by errant rockets fired at Israel which fell short of their targets and landed in the Strip.