land day - Abdallah Shama - March 30 2011
A land Day procession in the village of Arabe, March 30, 2011. Photo by Abdallah Shama
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The Israel Defense Forces has raised its alert level ahead of anticipated protests at Israel’s borders and West Bank checkpoints during Land Day, being marked today in commemoration of a government plan to expropriate Arab lands.

The IDF has deployed troops ahead of a solidarity event calling for protest marches up to the Israeli border, called Global March to Jerusalem, and pro-Palestinian protests, expected mainly at the Qalandiyah checkpoint north of Jerusalem and the Rachel checkpoint in the south.

Sources in the IDF Northern Command said no demonstrations were expected on the Syrian border because of the domestic situation in that country, but that protests were expected on the Lebanese border.

The Southern Command expected protests mainly at the Erez and Karni checkpoints.

Forces have been briefed on rules of engagement and have been ordered to act with restraint but to protect the border and not to allow protesters to cross it as they did last year.

The Israeli-Arab community will mark Land Day today beginning with a wreath-laying ceremony at a monument in the Galilee town of Sakhnin to the six people killed in clashes on the first Land Day in 1976.

The Higher Arab Monitoring Committee, an umbrella group of Arab parties and political movements, said expropriations of land continue, that “the struggle this year will be an uncompromising one of life and death,” and that the government must abandon the so-called Prawer plan involving the removal of Bedouin from land in the Negev.

After the wreath-laying ceremony in Sakhnin local marches will be held through Sakhnin, Arabeh and Kfar Cana.

A central message of today’s Land Day rallies will be a call for the expansion of the municipal boundaries of Arab communities and approval of master plans to alleviate a severe housing shortage.

The main processions through Sakhnin, Arabeh and Deir Hanna will take place within the communities and on the roads linking them. As has become the practice in recent years, police deploy outside the towns and there is practically no police presence in the towns during the events.

The northern district police said it expected the day’s events to pass peacefully.