Palestinians mark Land Day with protests

Israeli troops fire tear gas in West Bank to disperse participants in event commemorating deaths of protesters in 1976.

Palestinian protesters have clashed with Israeli soldiers as they demonstrated in the occupied West Bank before the 37th anniversary of Land Day.

Palestinian Israelis and Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza held rallies on Friday commemorating the 37th anniversary of Land Day.

The annual protests mark the deaths of six Arab Israeli protesters at the hands of Israeli police and troops during mass protests in 1976 against plans to confiscate Arab land in the northern Galilee region.

Palestinian and international activists organised the march between five villages located in the south Hebron

The villages are at risk of being cut off from the rest of the West Bank if planned Israeli settlement and wall building goes ahead.

Al Jazeera’s Nicole Johnston, reporting from Psagot, a settlement in the West Bank, said that hundreds of  Palestinians in the northern town of Sakhnin demonstrated on the streets against Israel’s policy of discrimination against them.

“They’re also demonstrations against the confiscation of Palestinian land across the West Bank,” she said.

Other major events were scheduled to take place in the Negev.

Rallies in Gaza

In the Gaza Strip, dozens of people joined a rally In the northern town of Beit Lahiya, while at Khan Younis in the south, olive trees were planted in commemoration.

Sami Abu Zuhri of Hamas, which governs Gaza, told participants at the Khan Younis event that the group was continuing its resistance to liberate all of Palestine and they would continue to strike inside Israel.

In Rafah, near Gaza’s southern border with Israel, about 500 Palestinians took part in a rally during which some threw stones at Israeli soldiers. The soldiers responded with live fire.

An Israeli army spokeswoman told AFP news agency that dozens of Palestinians rioted near the security fence in the southern Gaza Strip, hurling rocks at Israeli soldiers in the area.

She said an initial inquiry suggested that one participant was lightly injured.

A delegation of 20 Palestinians, including Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, planted trees to mark Land Day in the contested West Bank zone east of Jerusalem referred to as E1, Israeli police spokeswoman Luba Samri said.

She said that police dispersed the event and confiscated the saplings.

On the Mount of Olives in East Jerusalem, about 200 Palestinians planted trees on land belonging to a Palestinian family.

Samri said that three people were arrested for trespassing on state-owned land.

At the West Bank Qalandia checkpoint, nearly 200 Palestinians clashed with Israeli forces, who responded with tear gas.

A military spokeswoman said that 150 Palestinians were threw stones at Israeli forces, “who were using riot dispersal means”.

‘Violent demonstrations’

The security presence in Jerusalem and the West Bank was boosted on Friday “following information that groups of Palestinians were ready to engage in violent demonstrations”, Samri said.

Friday prayers in Jerusalem passed off without incident. Access for men to the al-Aqsa mosque compound had been limited to Palestinians over the age of 50 and holders of Jerusalem residency cards issued by Israel.

The annexation of land in the West Bank is seen by the Arab community as a way of altering the population demographic of Galilee to create a Jewish majority in the area.

“We came here on the last day of our freedom bus tour, which has lasted for 13 days,” Aliya Orsan, an activist, said.

“The reason for our tour was to move our theatre to the places where people are having daily confrontations with the occupation forces and daily confrontations with the discriminatory Zionist regime.”

The activists’ 13-day bus journey toured West Bank land known as Area C, which accounts for about 60 percent of the West Bank, and is under full Israeli control.

This is where most Jewish settlements are located.

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies