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Photo by: Marc Israel Sellem
Amnesty International warns Israel against use of force in 'Land Day' demonstrations
By LEV SELMON
29/03/2014
Israeli Arabs will mark the annual Land Day on Sunday, with protests planned across the country.
 
Amnesty International made a public statement on Saturday strictly warning, "Israel must not use violence to quash Land Day demonstrations on Sunday." The press release made open the organization's fear that Israeli security forces plan to "launch a violent crackdown on planned Palestinian protests."

Israeli Arabs will mark the annual Land Day on Sunday, with protests planned across the country.

The annual event commemorates six Israeli Arabs killed by security forces during riots on March 30, 1976, which were held to protest the state appropriation of Arab land in the Galilee.

Last year protesters around the country numbered in the thousands with many carrying Palestinian flags and chanting “from the river to the sea, Palestine will be free” and “with blood and fire, we will liberate al-Aksa,” among other chants.

The 2013 Land Day protests were largely peaceful with a few involving the hurling of stones at security forces and the subsequent dispersal of protesters by riot control forces. However, the largest 2013 Land Day demonstration was held in the Galilee village of Sakhnin. In that protest police were not present in  to prevent clashes with protesters.

In an isolated incident during last year's protest day, a five-year-old boy was lightly wounded by stones thrown at his family’s car while they were traveling on Highway 60 near the West Bank settlement of Efrat. He was evacuated to Hadassah University Medical Center in Jerusalem’s Ein Kerem neighborhood.

In 2012 one Palestinian man was killed and dozens of pro-Palestinian activists were injured  when demonstrations turned violent in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Amnesty International has accused Israel of using excessive force in past Land Day demonstrations. This year in its press release, the organization stated, “Israel’s authorities have failed to respect the right of Palestinians to exercise their right to freedom of peaceful assembly," and warned, "Amnesty International’s researchers will be monitoring events on Sunday closely to examine whether the rights of demonstrators are respected.”

Amnesty International says that it has documented a pattern of increasingly lethal use of unlawful force by Israeli forces in recent years.

This year's Land Day demonstrations are also planning to include protests in the Negev region where Beduin plan to protest government ordered land evictions and demolitions. Amnesty International commented on these issues, saying, "People in the Negev are angry. The consultations that the authorities claim to have held with the residents over their eviction have been wholly inadequate."
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