Protesters in Israel's neighbors mark Land Day

Hundreds gather in Lebanon, thousands in Syria, 15,000 in Jordan to mark 36th annual Land Day; Egypt protest called off.

March 30, 2012 20:57
3 minute read.
Land Day protest in Syria

Land Day protest in Syria 370. (photo credit: REUTERS/Khaled al-Hariri )


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Protesters gathered in Israel's neighboring countries on Friday for demonstrations marking the 36th annual Land Day, including in Lebanon, Syria and Jordan.

While a demonstration in Jordan attracted up to 15,000 people, according to AFP, numbers were far smaller in Israel's northern neighbor, Lebanon, as Lebanese security forces attempted to prevent a repeat of fatal protests that occurred along the border with Israel last year.

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In Syria, despite a a brutal year-long conflict between the government in Damascus and an armed opposition, protesters rallied in Damascus in solidarity for both the Palestinians on Land Day and for Syrian President Bashar Assad.

Activists in Israel's southern neighbor, Egypt, had planned demonstrations, but leading organizers told Al Jazeera they needed to call the marches off due to heightened security and a tense political situation in the country.

Hundreds of people gathered at Lebanon's Beaufort Castle near the border with Israel on Friday to take part in Land Day demonstrations amid heightened security by Lebanese forces.

The rally attracted people of all ages to the scenic fortress, where Lebanese security forces had erected a barbed wire fence on the southern side of the hill to contain protesters, the Lebanese English-Language The Daily Star reported.

About 200 foreign activists, including two US rabbis, arrived at Beaufort Castle to join the rally, according to the Star.

Earlier last week, event organizers told the Star they predicted as many as 5,000 protesters to participate in the demonstration marking Land Day, which was coupled with the highly-publicized "Global March to Jerusalem."

Authorities in Lebanon were on high alert to prevent a repeat of last years Nakba Day protests, in which at least 10 people were killed near the border with Israel, and erected checkpoints on roads in Lebanon's south to prevent demonstrators from encroaching on the border.

Amid the protests, Iran's Deputy Foreign Minister Hussein Amir Abdel-Lahian visited Lebanon's border with Israel, reaffirming his country's commitment to Lebanon, Hezbollah's al-Manar reported.

In Syria, thousands of protesters gathered in Damascus' al-Sabaa square to mark Land Day, according to Reuters. The protesters also expressed solidarity with Assad, with many of them waving Syrian flags and holding up pictures of the embattled leader.

Protests from Syria were particularly violent in the past, with demonstrators twice challenging Israeli sovereignty during Nakba Day and Naksa Day protests in 2011.

In Jordan, approximately 15,000 protesters assembled on the border with Israel to mark Land Day, according to AFP.

The demonstration was attended by members from the Muslim Brotherhood and anti-Zionist ultra-orthodox Jews.

Protesters waved Palestinian flags and called for the liberation of Jerusalem. Hammam Said, leader of the Muslim Brotherhood branch in Jordan, said: "The Israelis have stolen Palestine. We will return to the Holy Land and restore our rights. We will not forget their crimes." The demonstration remained non-violent.

In Egypt, meanwhile, activists said Egyptian security forces prevented mass protests from taking place, while organizers from another Cairo-based group called off a demonstration due to the political situation in Egypt, Al Jazeera reported according to pro-Palestinian activists.

Gamal Abdel Salaam, a leading organizer in the Al-Quds Committee in Egypt, told Al Jazeera that Egyptian security forces prevented a march from Cairo University in Giza to the grounds of the Great Pyramids, despite the organization receiving approval "from all sides."

Another activist and director of the Center for Palestine Studies in Cairo, Ibrahim Al-Darawi, told Al Jazeera that a massive demonstration from the Al Azhar Mosque was called off due to Egypt's "internal situation... and political tensions at the current time."

Abdel Salaam insisted that despite calling off his organization's march, his group would continue to work "for the sake of Jerusalem and address attempts by the Israeli occupation to Judaize [the city]."

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