Middle East

Arab Israelis, Palestinians mark 'Land Day'

JERUSALEM: Arab Israelis and Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza were holding rallies Saturday commemorating the 37th anniversary of "Land Day".

The annual demonstrations mark the deaths of six Arab Israeli protesters at the hands of Israeli police and troops during mass protests in 1976 against plans to confiscate Arab land in the northern Galilee region.

The central events were scheduled for the northern Arab-Israeli town of Sakhnin and the Negev.

In the northern Gaza town of Beit Lahiya dozens of people joined a rally, while at Khan Yunis in the south olive trees were planted in commemoration.

Sami Abu Zuhri of the Islamist Hamas movement that rules Gaza told participants at the Khan Yunis event his movement was "continuing our resistance to liberate all of Palestine," and would "continue to strike inside Israel."

In Rafah, near Gaza's southern border with Israel, some 500 Palestinians took part in a rally during which some threw stones at Israeli soldiers, who responded with live fire.

An Israeli army spokeswoman told AFP that "dozens of Palestinians rioted near the security fence in the southern Gaza Strip, hurling rocks at IDF soldiers in the area."

She said an initial inquiry suggested that "one rioter was lightly injured".

In the contested West Bank zone east of Jerusalem referred to as E1 a delegation of 20 Palestinians, including prime minister Salam Fayyad, planted trees to mark Land Day, Israeli police spokeswoman Luba Samri said.

She said police dispersed the event and confiscated the saplings.

And on the Mount of Olives in east Jerusalem some 200 Palestinians planted trees on land belonging to a Palestinian family. Samri said that three people were arrested for trespassing on state-owned land.

At the West Bank Qalandia checkpoint nearly 200 Palestinians clashed with Israeli forces, who responded with tear gas.

A military spokeswoman said that "150 Palestinians were throwing stones at Israeli forces, who were using riot dispersal means."

The security presence in Jerusalem and the West Bank was boosted on Friday "following information that groups of Palestinians were ready to engage in violent demonstrations," Samri said.

Friday prayers in Jerusalem passed off without incident. Access for men to the Al-Aqsa mosque compound had been limited to Palestinians over the age of 50 and holders of Jerusalem residency cards issued by Israel.





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