As Palestinian mark Nakba Day with marches and events across the country, police officers detained three Arab students at Tel Aviv University accused of assaulting right-wing activists who staged a counter-protest.
Two of the students were released from detention on Sunday night. The third remains in police custody, and a hearing will be held to extend his detention on Monday morning.
Several dozen students participated in the annual event. Activists with Im Tirzu, a right-wing group that champions Nakba denial, said they were attacked, whereas witnesses who were there for the Nakba commemoration say the violence started with an assault of an Arab student by one of the counter-protesters.
According to a student who attended the event, an Im Tirzu activist attacked an Arab student who passed through an area earmarked by police for the right-wing protest, as "police had blocked all other entrances."
She added that "police officers were all over him within seconds." Other students tried to help him, she added, but "police started pepper spraying and arresting people."
Israeli police have also bolstered their presence in Jerusalem and around the Temple Mount compound as Palestinians mark the 74th Nakba Day – a commemoration for the loss of homeland in the conflict surrounding the birth of the modern Jewish state.
This year, the Nakba Day coincides with the funeral of Walid al-Sharif in Jerusalem, who succumbed to his wounds Saturday after being hit by sponge-tipped bullets during clashes at the Al-Aqsa during Ramadan, which saw an uptick in violence and police brutality throughout the holy month. It also comes amid a backdrop of a string of Palestinian attacks in Israel and the West Bank that have left 19 dead, and subsequent Israeli military raids in the West Bank that have killed at least 27 Palestinians.
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Calls for Jews to preform sacrifices at the compound for "second Passover," celebrated a month after the initial holiday, are also threatening to exacerbate tensions. In protest of these calls, Hamas spokesperson Hazem Kassem called on Palestinians in Jerusalem and within the Green Line to show up at the compound on Nakba day.
Kassem says such calls for Jewish attendance constitute a dangerous provocation and an insult to Palestinians and the Muslim community at large.
There is currently no concrete information on planned Nakba Day demonstrations in Jerusalem on Sunday, though the police expect relatively small demonstrations throughout the rest of Israel, mainly in Nazareth and at Tel Aviv University – where students will hold a ceremony in the entrance plaza as they do every year. In the West Bank, demonstrations are planned in Ramallah, Jericho, and other Palestinian cities. A counter demonstration is expected to be held by the right-wing organization Im Tritzu, which called on its supporters to demonstrate against the "lie of the Nakba." Police who are experience with such events are preparing to prevent confrontations.
Thousands already marched on Thursday to mark the Nakba in the Lower Galilee in northern Israel, the area where the village of Miar, depopulated in 1948, once stood.
On Wednesday, Palestinian-American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh was killed in an exchange of gunfire during an Israeli military raid in Jenin. Her funeral, held on Friday in Jerusalem, witnessed police brutality and an eruption of clashes.
Referring to police conduct at Abu Akleh's funeral, Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar said on Saturday that the journalist had now been killed twice. "The first was when they shot her, the second was when they tried to prevent the funeral she deserved – acting aggressively with her coffin. These are crimes with no statute of limitations," he said. He called for an immediate intervention to punish Israel for its crimes.
The Hamas leader also addressed recent threats to assassinate him in the Israeli media, saying he was not in hiding and would be willing to go on-air live.
"I don't care what others think, and I don't worry; they [Israel] only know how to generate noise."
The Erez crossing between Gaza and Israel is expected to reopen on Sunday to workers, after having been closed for nearly two weeks.
Justice Minister Gideon Sa'ar opposes the decision to reopen it, and his New Hope party member, Construction and Housing Minister Zeev Elkin told Army Radio: "Specifically in days like these, reopening the Erez crossing is unnecessary."
Citing growing tensions, which Elkin said Gaza-based Hamas was responsible for, he said it would have been better to "hold off" with reopening the crossing.