Palestinian protesters marking Land Day clash with IDF soldiers in Jerusalem and West Bank
Protesters at Qalandiyah checkpoint hurled rocks at soldiers, who responded with stun grenades, tear gas; clashes also at Rachel's Tomb border crossing and the Erez crossing.
Clashes erupted on Friday in the north of Jerusalem between Israel Defense Force soldiers and some 250 Palestinian protesters marking Land Day. Protesters at the Qalandiyah checkpoint hurled rocks at soldiers, who responded with stun grenades and tear gas.
At the border crossing near Rachel's Tomb, between Jerusalem and Bethlehem, about 300 protesters hurled stones at security forces and even threw Molotov cocktails. The crossing, frequented by tourists and pilgrims, was closed to the public. One protester was apparently wounded when he was hit by a tear gas grenade, and was evacuated to hospital.
At Nablus Gate and Lion's Gate in Jerusalem, hundreds of protesting Palestinians were dispersed by the IDF and Border Police, and fourteen were arrested. During the confrontation, numerous Palestinians were wounded and evacuated by the Red Crescent.
One Palestinian was wounded in clashes at the Erez crossing on Friday afternoon. Dozens of protesters started to approach the checkpoint, and when they did not answer to calls to stop approaching, the soldiers fired tear gas toward them. One of the demonstrators set fire to a burning tire and rolled it past the soldiers. In response, they opened fire at him, and wounded him in the legs. The severity of his injury is unknown. He was taken by ambulance to a hospital in the Gaza Strip.
Israeli security forces had been on heightened alert Friday ahead of planned demonstrations in Israel and in neighboring countries, with Israeli officials braced for possible acts of violence by demonstrators.
In Bethlehem, around 100 people tried to stage a march, but were blocked by Palestinian police.
The demonstrations at Qalandiyah, and at other potential flashpoints in East Jerusalem, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, were expected to exacerbate once Muslim Friday prayers were over.
In the afternoon some 5,000 people gathered in the village of Deir Hanna, to mark the main Land Day rally. So far no unusual incidents were reported at the site. Towards the afternoon, the IDF concluded the morning's events, noting that despite the high preparations, only three active centers of demonstration were registered during the day – in Qalandiyah, at the border crossing near Rachel’s tomb, and at the Erez crossing.
In anticipation of the unrest, Defense Minister Ehud Barak ordered all crossing points into the West Bank closed for a 24-hour period, the Israeli military announced, while additional troops have been deployed along the borders with Lebanon, Syria and Gaza.
Police have also limited access to Muslim prayers at the Temple Mount-Noble Sanctuary compound in Jerusalem, allowing in only women and men over the age of 40 holding Israeli identity cards.
The demonstrations in Israel mark the anniversary of Land Day, an event marked annually by Arab Israelis to commemorate the 1976 protests in which six Arabs were killed by security forces.
Pro-Palestinian activists were also planning to commemorate the event this year by marching to Israel's borders, in what they have termed a "Global March to Jerusalem."
In Lebanon, army troops imposed tight security measures in the south of the country, setting up checkpoints across the area, while the United Nations Interim Forces in Southern Lebanon (UNIFIL) enhanced their patrols.
The Lebanese organizers of the Global March have announced that the march would not go to the border with Israel, as planned, but would instead head to Beaufort Castle, east of Nabatieh, south Lebanon.
"More than 5,000 are expected to attend the non-violent march which is aimed at supporting our Palestinian people," Ali Barakeh, a member of Hamas movement in Lebanon told DPA.
Hezbollah and the mainstream Fatah movement have set up more than 60 buses to transfer Palestinian refugees from 12 camps across Lebanon to the area where the ceremony is being held.
Palestinians in camps in Syria also planned to demonstrate, but it was unclear whether any marches would take place on the Syrian side of the Golan Heights, where 15 people were killed last year during clashes with Israeli troops.
In June, Israeli troops also killed 23 demonstrators who crossed into the no-man's land between Israel and Syria in a demonstration against Israeli control of the Golan Heights.
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