Ramallah and Beit El, Occupied West Bank – Israeli forces shot dead at least two Palestinians and wounded hundreds more in the occupied West Bank during protests to mark the Nakba, when nearly 800,000 Palestinians were forcibly expelled from their homes to make way for the establishment of the state of Israel in 1948.
The Palestinian Wafa news agency, citing health officials, said two Palestinians were killed and 450 others wounded during Saturday’s demonstrations.
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At least 104 people were injured by live fire, the agency reported.
The latest casualties came a day after at least 11 Palestinians were killed and more than 500 injured in the occupied West Bank by Israeli forces.
While commemorating the 73rd anniversary of the Nakba or the “Catastrophe”, protesters in the West Bank also decried Israel’s ongoing aerial bombardment in Gaza, the threat of forced expulsion of Palestinians from their homes in East Jerusalem, and the repeated Israeli raids on Al-Aqsa Mosque, Islam’s third holiest site.
In Ramallah, Nakba sirens rang out at midday on Saturday and hundreds of Palestinians gathered waving Palestinian flags and black flags adorned with keys, representing their dispossession and right of return.
Demonstrators confronted Israeli forces in Hebron, Ramallah, and the northern cities of Nablus and Qalqilya.
A sombre mood prevailed as the crowd of Palestinians of all ages, political persuasions and backgrounds began marching towards an Israeli military checkpoint near the illegal settlement of Beit El, 3.5km (2 miles) from central Ramallah, chanting: “With our blood and our soul we shall redeem you, Al-Aqsa.”
Unlike previous years, there were no attempts by the Palestinian police stationed at various points along the route to stop the march.
For the next few hours, some Palestinian protesters lit tyres and threw stones towards Israeli soldiers, who responded sporadically with stun grenades, volleys of tear gas canisters, and, later, live bullets.
Several ambulances ferried wounded protesters to hospital.
The Wafa agency said it was “the first time in years” that Israeli forces “resort to the use of live bullets to deal with massive protests across the occupied Palestinian territories”.
In Ramallah, Muhammad Shuabaki said he had joined the march in solidarity with Palestinians in Gaza and those facing forced expulsion in the East Jerusalem neighbourhood of Sheikh Jarrah to make way for Jewish settlers.
“We don’t want war but we have to fight for our rights and we can’t keep silent about our people being evicted from Sheikh Jarrah and the people being killed in Gaza,” Shuabaki, an engineer, told Al Jazeera.
There were significant protests on Saturday in support of Palestinians across the Middle East, in several European countries, and in Australia.
Israel has launched hundreds of missiles and artillery shells on the besieged Gaza Strip since Monday, while Hamas and other Palestinian groups have launched nearly 2,000 rockets into Israel from Gaza.
At least 140 Palestinians, including 39 children, have been killed in the Gaza Strip since Monday and about 950 others have been wounded. In the occupied West Bank, Israeli forces have killed at least 13 Palestinians.
At least nine people in Israel have also been killed by Palestinian rocket fire from Gaza, with one new death reported on Saturday in Ramat Gan.
Israeli military attacks on Gaza continued on Saturday with 10 Palestinians – at least eight of them children – killed in the early hours of the morning, after the Shati refugee camp near Gaza City was bombed.
On Saturday afternoon, an Israeli missile destroyed a high-rise building housing residential apartments and media offices in Gaza City, including Al Jazeera Media Network and The Associated Press news agency.
The latest escalation in violence followed weeks of tensions in occupied East Jerusalem over a now-postponed court hearing relating to the forced expulsion of several Palestinian families from their homes in Sheikh Jarrah.
Tension in East Jerusalem also spread to the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, which Israeli forces raided on three consecutive days during the final week of Ramadan, firing tear gas and stun grenades at worshippers inside the mosque and injuring hundreds.
At the Beit El protest on Saturday, Suhad Nasser and her sister Samira wore Nakba Day T-shirts and traditional Palestinian kaffiyehs, or scarves, and waved Palestinian flags.
“Our family is originally from Lod in Israel and they were first forced to flee their homes in 1948 and now we see Palestinians being forced out of their homes again and this is a very sore point for us,” said Suhad.