Clashes break out at Kalandiya in Land Day protests

ByMELANIE LIDMAN, NIDA TUMA, J
March 30, 2012 14:58

Palestinians throw stones at IDF checkpoint near Bethlehem; IDF announces closure on the West Bank; police limit access to the Temple Mount; security forces prepare to prevent access to Lebanese border area

Border Police clash with Palestinians at Kalandiya

Border Police clash with Palestinians at Kalandiya 370. (photo credit:REUTERS/Darren Whiteside )

The IDF and Israel Police went on high alert Friday, imposing a full closure on the West Bank, limiting access to the Temple Mount and setting up checkpoints on roads near the Lebanese border ahead of expected protests marking Land Day and the Global March to Jerusalem.

Protests were taking place across the West Bank in Kalandiya, Bethlehem, Hebron, Nabi Saleh, Budrus and other villages. Israeli media reported that IDF troops fired warning shots toward protesters in the Gaza Strip who approached the closed Erez Crossing.



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At the Kalandiya checkpoint Palestinian protesters were clashing with Israeli forces, throwing rocks, firebombs and burning tires. Security forces were using large amounts of tear gas, stun grenades, sound weapons and foul-smelling water to disperse the protesters.

A large number of protesters arrived at the checkpoint from Ramallah. A number of protesters were injured and taken to local hospitals for treatment. Israel Radio reported that those taken to hospital were lightly injured.


A wounded Palestinian protester at Kalandiya is evacuated (Reuters)

Lana Hamadeh, a Palestinian-Canadian from Ottowa, listed demands being made as part of the protest. One of nine delegates in the Canadian Global March to Jerusalem mission, Hamadeh said she and other protesters were demanding "the right of return for Palestinians and the protection of Jerusalem."

"Non-Jewish holy sites are at risk and the city itself is being ethnically cleansed," she told The Jerusalem Post. "We are asking for our right to re-endter Jerusalem and reclaim it for everyone, not just for Jews."

Preparations took place along all of Israel’s fronts. The IDF announced that Defense Minister Ehud Barak ordered West Bank crossings closed for a 24-hour period.

In Bethlehem, dozens of protesters were throwing stones at an IDF checkpoint after breaking through a line of Palestinian police.

Palestinian protesters sit in road near Bethlehem (Tovah Lazaroff)

Earlier, PA security forces had blocked the protesters from approaching the checkpoint. The protesters stopped in front of the Palestinian police and sat in the road, chanting: "To Jerusalem, we will march."

Israel Police deployed large numbers of police and border police forces in and around Moshav Avivim near the Lebanese border Friday morning, ahead of the expected demonstrations. Security forces set up checkpoints to prevent protesters from encroaching on the Lebanese border, where at least 10 people were killed in clashes that erupted during last years Nakba Day commemorations.

A chief superintendent in the police's Northern District said the preparations were designed with lessons learned from the deadly events last year. Police were prepared for crow control, armed with tear gas and riot gear.

Police said they were coordinating with the army, who was in turn coordinating with the United Nations in Lebanon.

In addition, police came armed with a general's order that gives them the authority to prevent people from reaching the border in the case that clashes break out. Police did not begin stopping movement in the border area but said they were prepared to do so.

On the northern side of the border, the Lebanese Armed Forces and police were also out in force along the border and at the Beaufort castle, where protesters were gathering. Thousands were expected to arrive at the castle. UNIFIL was also said to be conducting patrols and monitoring activity along the northern side of the border.

IDF Chief of General Staff Benny Gantz toured the West Bank and Syrian border Friday morning ahead of the planned protests.

IDF Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Benny Gantz (IDF Spokesman)

The IDF predicted protests in several Palestinian cities in the West Bank and at the Kalandiya crossing to Ramallah, north of Jerusalem. Officers from the Civil Administration contacted their Palestinian counterparts earlier this week in an effort to contain the protests and prevent them from escalating.

As part of preparations in the capital, police said they would limit the access of Muslim worshipers to the Temple Mount for Friday prayers. Only men over the age of 40 in possession of a blue Israeli identity card and women will be given access to the Temple Mount on Friday, in an attempt to limit disturbances.

Thousands of police officers will fan out across Jerusalem, with an emphasis on the alleyways of the Old City and crossings into the West Bank including the Rachel checkpoint to Bethlehem, said Jerusalem Police spokesman Shmuel Ben-Ruby.

Ben Hartman, Yaakov Katz and Yaakov Lappin contributed to this report.

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