Monday, May 16, 2011

Palestinians killed in 'Nakba' clashes

Several killed and scores wounded in Gaza, Golan Heights, Ras Maroun and
West Bank, as Palestinians mark Nakba Day.

May 15, 2011 Al Jazeera

Several people have been killed and scores of others wounded in the Gaza
Strip, Golan Heights, Ras Maroun in Lebanon and the Israeli-occupied West
Bank, as Palestinians mark the "Nakba", or day of "catastrophe".

The "Nakba" is how Palestinians refer to the 1948 founding of the state of
Israel, when an estimated 700,000 Palestinians fled or were expelled
following Israel's declaration of statehood.

At least one Palestinian was killed and up to 80 others wounded in
northern Gaza as Israeli troops opened fire on a march of at least 1,000
people heading towards the Erez crossing between the Gaza Strip and

A group of Palestinians, including children, marching to mark the "Nakba"
were shot by the Israeli army after crossing a Hamas checkpoint and
entering what Israel calls a "buffer zone" - an empty area between
checkpoints where Israeli soldiers generally shoot trespassers, Al
Jazeera's Nicole Johnston reported from Gaza City on Sunday.

"We are just hearing that one person has been killed and about 80 people
have been injured," Johnston said.

"There are about 500-600 Palestinian youth gathered at the Erez border
crossing point. They don't usually march as far as the border. There has
been intermittent gunfire from the Israeli side for the last couple of

"Hamas has asked us to leave; they are trying to move people away from the
Israeli border. They say seeing so many people at the border indicates a
shift in politics in the area."

Separately in south Tel Aviv, one Israeli man was killed and 17 were
injured when a 22-year-old Arab Israeli driver drove his truck into a
number of vehicles on one of the city's main roads.

Israeli police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said the driver, from an Arab
village called Kfar Qasim in the West Bank, was arrested at the scene and
is being questioned.

"Based on the destruction and the damage at the scene, we have reason to
believe that it was carried out deliberately," Rosenfeld said. But he said
he did not believe the motive was directly linked to the anniversary of
the Nakba.

West Bank clashes

One of the biggest Nakba demonstrations was held near Qalandiya refugee
camp and checkpoint, the main secured entry point into the West Bank from
Israel, where about 100 protesters marched, Al Jazeera's Nisreen
El-Shamayleh reported from Ramallah.

Some injuries were reported from tear gas canisters fired at protesters
there, El-Shamayleh said.

Small clashes were reported throughout various neighbourhoods of East
Jerusalem and cities in the West Bank, between stone-throwing Palestinians
and Israeli security forces.

Israeli police said 20 arrests were made in the East Jerusalem area of
Issawiyah for throwing stones and petrol bombs at Israeli border police

About 70 arrests have been made in East Jerusalem throughout the Nakba
protests that began on Friday, two days ahead of the May 15 anniversary,
police spokesman Rosenfeld said.

Tensions had risen a day earlier after a 17-year-old Palestinian boy died
of a gunshot wound suffered amid clashes on Friday in Silwan, another East
Jerusalem neighbourhood.

Police said the source of the gunfire was unclear and that police were
investigating, while local sources told Al Jazeera that the teen was shot
in random firing of live ammunition by guards of Jewish settlers living in
nearby Beit Yonatan.

'Palestinians killed'

Meanwhile, Syrian state television reported that Israeli forces killed
four Syrian citizens who had been taking part in an anti-Israeli rally on
the Syrian side of the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights border on Sunday.

Israeli army radio said earlier that dozens were wounded when Palestinian
refugees from the Syrian side of the Golan Heights border were shot for
trying to break through the frontier fence. There was no comment on
reports of the injured.

There have also been reports that Israeli gunfire killed up to 10 people
and injured scores more in the Lebanese town of Ras Maroun, on the
southern border with Israel.

Matthew Cassel, a journalist in the town, told Al Jazeera that he saw at
least two dead Palestinian refugees.

"Tens of thousands of refugees marched to the border fence to demand their
right to return where they were met by Israeli soldiers," he said.

"Many were killed. I don't know how many but I saw with my own eyes a
number of unconscious and injured, and at least two dead.

"Now the Lebanese army has moved in, people are running back up the
mountain to get away from the army."

'End to Zionist project'

Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu addressed the events of "Nakba
Day" in a televised statement on Sunday, particualrly referring to
attempts to infiltrate Israel's borders with Syria, Lebanon and the Gaza
Strip, saying "we are determined to defend our borders".

Netanyahu said that he instructed Israeli forces to act with restraint,
but to stop all attempts at infiltration and challenges to Israel's

He said that the "Nakba Day" protesters were not fighting for the 1967
borders as they claim, but were denying Israel's right to exist.

"We must understand who and what we are up against," Netanyahu said.

Earlier on Sunday Ismail Haniyeh, prime minister of Hamas-controlled Gaza,
repeated the group's call for the end of the state of Israel.

Addressing Muslim worshippers in Gaza City on Sunday, Haniyeh said
Palestinians marked this year's "Nakba" "with great hope of bringing to an
end the Zionist project in Palestine".

"To achieve our goals in the liberation of our occupied land, we should
have one leadership,'' Haniyeh
said, praising the recent unity deal with its rival, Fatah, the political
organisation which controls the West Bank under Palestinian president
Mahmoud Abbas' leadership.

Meanwhile, a 63 second-long siren rang midday in commemoration of the
Nakba's 63rd anniversary.

Over 760,000 Palestinians - estimated today to number 4.7 million with
their descendants - fled or were driven out of their homes in the conflict
that followed Israel's creation.

Many took refuge in neighbouring Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt and elsewhere.
Some continue to live in refugee camps.

About 160,000 Palestinians stayed behind in what is now Israeli territory
and are known as Arab Israelis. They now total around 1.3 million, or some
20 percent of Israel's population.

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