A Palestinian is arrested by Israeli policemen during a demonstration by hundreds of Palestinian protesting as they mark Land Day in Israeli annexed East Jerusalem, Friday. — AFP
OCCUPIED JERUSALEM — Israeli security forces fired rubber bullets, tear gas and stun grenades to break up small groups of Palestinian stone-throwers Friday as annual Land Day rallies turned violent around Jerusalem.
Medics in the Gaza Strip said the Israeli army also used live fire to prevent protesters from approaching frontier barriers in the small coastal territory, wounding nine people, including one seriously.
Palestinian activists called for a “Global March to Jerusalem” to mark the day when Israeli Arabs protest against land confiscation, and although there were many rallies, Israeli police said crowd numbers were relatively small.
“We are dealing with a number of disturbances, but in general the situation around the country has been relatively quiet,” said police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld.
However, violence flared at checkpoints in the occupied West Bank to the north and south of Jerusalem. Witnesses also reported disturbances at gates leading into the Old City, with police limiting access to the Muslims’ revered Al-Aqsa Mosque.
Occupied Jerusalem is a focal point of conflict, as Palestinians want the city’s eastern sector, captured by Israel in a 1967 war, as capital of a future state. Israel has annexed East Jerusalem as part of its capital and insists the city remain united.
“We are determined to march together toward Jerusalem, and hopefully we will break through and reach it,” said a masked youth, calling himself Rimawi, as he faced off against soldiers in the West Bank city Ramallah, a short distance from Jerusalem.
Flag-waving crowds neared the Qalandiya crossing out of Ramallah, some of them hurling stones at the security forces, but were forced back when border police fired tear gas and sprayed them with foul smelling liquid from a water cannon.
There were also confrontations in Bethlehem, where Palestinians threw petrol bombs at an Israeli watchtower. One man was critically wounded when he was hit in the head by a tear gas canister, activists said.
Land Day commemorates the killing of six Arabs in 1976 during protests against the confiscation of their land in Israel’s Galilee region. — Reuters