Clashes between Israeli troops and demonstrators in the West Bank have wounded five people, including two photographers, as protests marking the expulsion of Palestinians from their homes in 1948 entered their second day.
The violence on Saturday broke out near an army post just south of the city of Nablus, where 200 Palestinians had gathered to mark 67 years since the “Nakba”, or “catastrophe”, that befell them when Israel was established.
Israeli troops fired rubber bullets and tear gas grenades as Palestinians tried to approach their post, prompting the protesters to pelt the soldiers with stones, Palestinian security sources said.
Palestinian medics gave a toll of five wounded: three protesters as well as freelance photographer Samantha Comizzoli of Italy and a Palestinian colleague who works for the Chinese news agency Xinhua.
The clashes came a day after 17 people were wounded when Israeli troops used tear gas, water canon, rubber and live bullets against protesters, according to Palestinian witnesses and sources.
The clashes on Friday took place near Ramallah and in Nablus to the north.
The Israeli army confirmed the clashes, but denied that live rounds were fired.
More than 1,000 settlers from nearby Jewish settlements were bused into Nablus to visit Joseph’s Tomb earlier in the day, and soldiers blocked off roads leading to the pilgrimage site, according to Palestinian witnesses and security sources.
Palestinians protested, some throwing stones, before clashes with the army erupted.
A spokeswoman for the Israeli army said soldiers had “escorted” up to 3,000 Jewish visitors to the tomb since Wednesday evening, and that a crowd of some 200 Palestinians had approached the area throwing stones and burning tyres.
Soldiers used “riot dispersal” means, she said.
The clashes took place after Israel formed a new right-leaning government headed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Palestinian officials have said the new lineup pushes the prospects of peace further away than ever.
More than 760,000 Palestinians, estimated today to number around 5.5 million with their descendants, fled or were driven from their homes in 1948, with the Nakba marked every May 15.
For the Palestinians, the right to return to homes they fled or were forced out of is a prerequisite for any peace agreement with the Israelis, but it is a demand Israel has rejected.