International pro-Palestinian activists descend on Lebanon ahead of Land Day protest
Lebanese activists say dozens of delegations begin arriving at Beirut, Tripoli airports; organizers of planned march to Israeli border fear foreign activists may cause protests to turn violent.
Dozens of international delegations comprising hundreds of pro-Palestinian activists began arriving in Lebanon on Wednesday, ahead of massive demonstrations planned for Land Day, which commemorates the 1976 deaths of six Israeli Arabs protesting Israeli government land policies.
Plans have been announced in the Arab world calling for protest marches up to the Israeli border. Haaretz has learned that major disagreements have developed between leading, mostly Palestinian, protest organizers in the West Bank and neighboring Arab countries, and other activists identified with Iran, Syria and Hezbollah.
It has also been learned that the protest organizers, who are billing the event as the Global March to Jerusalem, are attempting to refine their protest message and avoid a physical confrontation with Israeli forces.
On Wednesday, Lebanese activists reported that international delegations of pro-Palestinian groups began arriving at Beirut and Tripoli airports.
Additional reports indicated that the Lebanese army and intelligence have prepared a detailed plan and route for Friday's march, indicating that protest activity will take place in a compound near the border with Israel. The march will be held in full coordination with Lebanese security forces.
Lebanese reports also indicated that the Beaufort fortress will serve as the end-point for all protest activates, since the ruin serves as a symbol of Palestinian and Lebanese resistance to Israel.
On Tuesday, the organizers of international protest marches scheduled for Friday expressed concern that the demonstrations could get out of control due to the involvement of outside activists, some from as far away as East Asia.
The rift between the initial organizers and the outsiders developed after a delegation of pro-Palestinian activists from East Asia and some Arab countries promoting the Global March to Jerusalem arrived in Iran and met with a senior Iranian adviser to the country's spiritual leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
Iran promised support for the protest, which was not widely welcomed by the initial group of mostly Palestinian organizers of the protest, who wanted to maintain their independence.
Particular concern is being expressed that the outsiders will take over protest marches and seek confrontations on Israel's borders, particularly the Lebanese and Syrian frontiers, and that the outsiders will convey messages contrary to the original organizers' wishes.
Members of the initial organizing committee say their group's plans call for peaceful marches in areas of the West Bank controlled by the Palestinian Authority, in the Jerusalem area, Jordan and several locations in Europe, notably in front of Israeli embassies.
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