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Palestinians and Israeli Troops Clash Amid Protests (NY) TIMES) By ETHAN BRONNER JERUSALEM, ISRAEL 03/31/12)Source: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/31/world/middleeast/palestinians-protest-land-seizure-and-control-of-jerusalem.html NEW YORK TIMES NEW YORK TIMES Articles-Index-TopPublishers-Index-Top
JERUSALEM — Thousands of Palestinians protested on Friday against Israeli policies of land seizure and control of Jerusalem, leading to clashes with Israeli troops in which a 20-year-old was killed and scores of others were injured.

The annual protest, known as Land Day, drew demonstrators in groups of hundreds in locations within Israel as well as in the West Bank, Jerusalem and Gaza. There were also solidarity marches in neighboring Lebanon and Jordan.

But weeks of organizing for a global march on Jerusalem produced fewer demonstrators than expected as Israel’s borders remained largely calm. Security troops in riot gear were out in large numbers, using rubber bullets, tear gas, water cannons filled with putrid green liquid and high-pitched noise machines.

Land Day commemorates events in March 1976 when Israel confiscated land from Galilee Arab villages, leading to protests in which six Arabs were killed. This year, the focus was extended to Israeli occupation of East Jerusalem — which Palestinians want as the capital of a future state — and there were calls for protests and marches around the world.

In Gaza, where the killing occurred, Hamas organized a rally more than a mile away from the crossing into Israel, with its forces deployed to keep the crowds from clashing with Israeli troops on the other side.

But some demonstrators sneaked through the lines, throwing stones and empty bottles at the Israelis. The Israelis responded with live fire, wounding about a dozen people, one of whom, Mahmoud Zaqout, 20, died later at a hospital, a medical spokesman said.

Another group of demonstrators reached the security fence in southeastern Gaza, where they were also met with gunfire. Officials said a total of 30 were hurt in the two demonstrations.

In Bethlehem, Palestinians reported one person seriously hurt when an Israeli tear-gas canister hit him in the head.

At the Qalandiya checkpoint between the West Bank and Jerusalem, masked youths threw stones at Israeli troops and set tires on fire. The troops responded with rubber bullets and tear gas. Mustafa Barghouti, a doctor and Palestinian politician, said one of the tear- gas canisters hit him, sending him to the hospital.

“I was hit with a tear-gas bomb on the side of my head and my back,” Dr. Barghouti said in a telephone interview from his hospital bed. “My scalp is injured, my right ear has problems, and they are checking to see if I have any spinal injury.”

The Israeli military spokesman’s office, in a set of Twitter messages and later over the telephone, said Dr. Barghouti had not been hit by an Israeli canister but had been attacked by other Palestinians. A few Palestinian witnesses offered a similar account.

The Palestinian minister of social welfare, Majida al-Masri, was treated after collapsing from tear-gas inhalation.

A participant in the Qalandiya rally, Walid Samara, an English teacher from the village of Salfit, said he took part because “we have many people, even children, in the Israeli prisons because they protested against the occupation. There is no city or village that doesn’t have a colony or settlement on their land.”

Israeli troops were on high alert along the borders with Lebanon and Syria after marchers last year tried to cross, leading to a number of dead. But this year, with Syria’s own civil conflict continuing, that border was quiet. In Lebanon, hundreds took part at a small demonstration at the Crusader era castle of Beaufort overlooking the Israeli border. The Palestinians who took part, mostly from refugee camps in southern Lebanon, said they were surprised and disappointed at the low turnout.

In Jordan, about 20,000 people marched in the direction of Jerusalem, stopping about four miles away. The police said the event was peaceful.

While the events on Friday were less violent and smaller than many anticipated, the tenor of the discourse offered Israel little comfort.

At the Gaza rally, there was a visiting Egyptian parliamentary delegation led by Mohammad al-Sayed Idris who said in a speech that “what was taken by force can only be returned by force.” He attacked the peace between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization, as well as the one between Israel and Egypt.

In the Lebanese demonstration, a cleric who gave a sermon said, “We should be united and say we are one people and one Muslim nation and we will never disagree on the liberation of Palestine.”

At the Qalandiya rally in the West Bank, a set of posters and a map put up for the rally showed Palestine consisting of all of Israel as well as the West Bank and Gaza. A demonstrator, Yusuf Abdulrahman al- Turk, when asked if he favored a two-state solution, replied: “We want all of Palestine. The Jews have no right to even one inch.”

Reporting was contributed by Fares Akram from Gaza, Isabel Kershner from the West Bank, Anne Barnard from Nabatiyeh, Lebanon, and Stephen Farrell from Jerusalem. (Copyright 2012 The New York Times Company 03/31/12)


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