Palestinians mark Nakba with protests and rallies

75 injured in West Bank demonstrations; Abbas calls for sovereign state on pre-1967 lines; MK Ilatov: Palestinians do not want peace.

May 15, 2013 20:32
Palestinian protesters, police clash at Damascus Gate in Jerusalem on Nakba Day, May 15, 2013.

Palestinians clash with police Damascus Gate (file) 370. (photo credit: REUTERS/Ammar Awad)

Palestinians on Wednesday marked the 65th anniversary of Nakba Day, the “catastrophe” of the founding of the State of Israel, with demonstrations and rallies in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Clashes between Palestinian stone-throwers and IDF soldiers erupted in Kalandiya, south of Ramallah, Hebron and Bethlehem.

Israel Police said 25 Palestinians were arrested during clashes that took place over the course of the day in and around Jerusalem.

Police Spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said that during a midday protest at Damascus Gate in Jerusalem, Palestinian rioters threw rocks and bottles at security forces, lightly wounding six Border policemen and police officers, three of whom had to be taken to hospitals in Jerusalem for treatment.

Police dispersed the riot using stun grenades, water cannons and mounted police, he added.

Rosenfeld said that later in the afternoon, a group of Palestinians began attacking Jews in the Old City, pushing and hitting them as they made their way to the Western Wall for Shavuot prayers. Police made six arrests during that incident, Rosenfeld said.

Sirens went off for 65 seconds in a number of Palestinian cities in the West Bank, where tens of thousands of Palestinians carried Palestinian and black flags as well as keys symbolizing their right of return. Speakers at various rallies emphasized the Palestinians’ right to return to their former villages and towns inside Israel.

“Sixty-five years after the Nakba, we affirm that we remain committed to the right of return in accordance with United Nations Resolution 194,” said Nablus Governor Jibrin al-Bakri in a speech on behalf of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.

Bakri said the Palestinian leadership remains opposed to resuming peace talks with Israel as long as Israel continues to build in the settlements.

“The right of return is a sacred right and we can’t give it up,” he told a major rally in Nablus.

In a televised speech marking Nakba Day, Abbas said that the Palestinians would not agree to any solution that does not guarantee them their right to a sovereign state on all the lands captured by Israel in 1967.

“We have scored victory against those who tried to bury our identity and deny our rights,” Abbas said. “We have made huge sacrifices – thousands of martyrs and tens of thousands of wounded. Today there is no country in the world, including the US, that denies our legitimate right to an independent state on the territories occupied in 1967.”

Abbas said that negotiations with Israel should be on the basis of the pre-1967 lines. He also reiterated his demand for the release of Palestinian prisoners from Israeli jails, especially those who were imprisoned before the signing of the Oslo Accords nearly two decades ago.

“There will be no peace without the return of our prisoners to their families,” he added.

MK Robert Ilatov (Yisrael Beytenu) said that Nakba Day comments made by the Palestinian leadership showed that they did not want peace.

“Marking the day Israel was established as a day of mourning, together with the Palestinian riots and attacks on IDF soldiers proves to us and the international community, year after year, that the Palestinians do not want peace,” Ilatov said.

The rioting shows the Palestinians’ true face and their inability to accept the existence of Israel as the sole state of the Jewish people, he said.

“These actions are the result of incitement by the leaders who continually claim that Israel is the enemy that must be fought, and trickles down to the riled-up street,” he stated. “The Palestinians must accept the fact that the first step to a future peace agreement must start with recognizing the reality of the State of Israel as the Jewish state.”

Near Ofer prison, on the outskirts of Ramallah, hundreds of Palestinians clashed with the IDF and Border Police, hurling stones and burning tires and trash cans.

The IDF responded with riot dispersal means including tear gas.

A similar, smaller scale riot of 50 Palestinians occurred by the Kalandiya checkpoint between Jerusalem and Ramallah.

Other smaller scale incidents occurred, including a march along Route 60 in the Gush Etzion region.

Some 30 Palestinians threw stones at Rachel’s Tomb in Bethlehem and another 40 threw stones and Molotov Cocktails at the IDF in the village of El-Khader. In Hebron, by the policemen’s checkpoint, some 30 Palestinians threw stones at the IDF.

According to Palestinians, 75 activists were injured in the West Bank demonstration mostly from tear gas inhalation.

Twenty of the injured, including 10 from rubber bullets, were hurt in clashes with the IDF near El-Arub village in the South Hebron region of the West Bank, according to Palestinians.

In a separate incident a Palestinian threw a Molotov cocktail at an IDF jeep southwest of Hebron, lightly injuring two soldiers and lightly to moderately injuring another two, who were taken to Soroka Medical Center in Beersheba for treatment.

Palestinians from Israeli Arab towns such as Sakhnin and other northern villages traveled to take part in the protest at Damascus Gate.

While events in Jerusalem and the West Bank were marked by violence and mass protests, events in Israeli Arab towns and villages were mostly low key.

Protest activities were held in various Israeli Arab villages, including Acre, Jaffa, Sakhnin and Nazareth. In Jaffa, there was a sit-in in the middle of the town. A large political rally was held in Acre with speeches and music.

Awad Abderfattah, secretary- general of the Balad Party, told The Jerusalem Post they chose to hold an event in Acre “because it used to be a Palestinian city and the Israelis destroyed it to prevent the development of the Palestinians.

Awad Abderfattah, secretary- general of the Balad Party, told The Jerusalem Post they chose to hold an event in Acre “because it used to be a Palestinian city and the Israelis destroyed it to prevent the development of the Palestinians.

“Why is it okay that Israelis can preserve their culture, but we are denied the same rights?” he asked. “We are the owners of this land.”

Abderfattah pointed out that it was a relatively new phenomenon for Palestinians from Israeli Arab towns such as Sakhnin and other northern villages to travel to Jerusalem to protest at Damascus Gate.

Israeli Arabs “merged with Palestinians from Jerusalem,” and this is something that is becoming more and more common, he said.

The focus for Palestinians, said Abderfattah, is on the fact that “the anniversary of the Nakba is not a past event, but is a continuous event manifested in the separation of families and land confiscations and political persecution.”

Abderfattah said that the Balad party and Israeli Arabs were offering to change the future with “real coexistence without occupation and persecution,” which would mean a kind of one-state solution advocated by some Israeli Arab politicians and leaders.

Such a state, according to them, should not be a Jewish state, but a purely secular democratic one, he said.

Tovah Lazaroff and Ariel Ben Solomon contributed to this report.

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