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Israeli forces, protesters clash at Nakba Day events (ISRAEL HAYOM) Yael Branovsky, Israel Hayom Staff and News Agencies 05/15/12) Source: http://www.israelhayom.com/site/newsletter_article.php?id=4338
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Palestinians and international activists demonstrate in Ramallah, as well as the nearby Ofer military prison and the Qalandiya checkpoint • Clashes reported in east Jerusalem, while Palestinians hurl stones at Jewish worshipers praying at Rachel´s Tomb.
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Israeli soldiers, border police and security officials were on high alert Tuesday and deployed additional forces to potential conflict zones as Palestinians and Israeli-Arabs marked Nakba Day, the day of "catastrophe" that they say befell their families when Israel was created in 1948.
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Israeli forces clashed with Palestinians at several locations on Tuesday, where Palestinians hurled stones. No injuries or damage were reported.
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In Qalandiya, some 150 Palestinians demonstrated in solidarity with another 200 protesters in nearby Beitunia, Israel Radio reported. Security forces were working to disperse the crowds.
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Following the events of Nakba Day last year, when protesters breached Israel´s border with Syria and streamed into the Golan Heights and Israeli soldiers opened fire on them, security forces were instructed to act firmly but sensitively. Last year, four protesters from Syria were killed along with another 10 from Lebanon. Hundreds were wounded.
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This year, Palestinians and international activists planned to demonstrate in the West Bank city of Ramallah, as well as the nearby Ofer military prison north of Jerusalem and the Qalandiya checkpoint. The Higher Arab Monitoring Committee declared a general strike in the Arab sector to mark Nakba Day. The strike affects all business establishments and educational institutions.
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Clashes broke out early on Tuesday between police and stone-throwing demonstrators in the east Jerusalem neighborhood of Issawiya, according to French news agency AFP. Israel also said a rocket fired by Gaza terrorists exploded in an unpopulated area in the Negev.
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"An explosive device fired from the Gaza Strip, a rocket or a mortar shell, landed early this morning in southern Israel, causing no injuries or damage," police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld told AFP.
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Army Radio reported Tuesday that some 200 Palestinians gathered at Rachel´s Tomb in Bethlehem to hold a demonstration marking Nakba Day. Some Palestinians hurled stones at Jews praying at the site, and Palestinian security forces arrived to disperse the stone-throwers. No one was injured.
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Israeli also forces detained three protesters near the West Bank village Nil´in, accordng to Palestinian news agency Ma´an.
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Palestinians traditionally mark Nakba Day on May 15, the date of the establishment of Israel, when hundreds of thousands of Palestinians fled or were expelled from their homes during the war with Israel. Israel maintains the number of Palestinian refugees stands at about 750,000, while the U.N. agency which assists Palestinian refugees also counts their descendants, estimated at nearly 5 million.
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Tuesday´s Nakba Day events began at noon (local time) with a siren marking the start of official ceremonies. The largest demonstration was expected to take place in Ramallah, a mass rally was planned for the Gaza Strip and smaller protests were scheduled elsewhere in the Palestinian territories, Israeli-Arab towns and in east Jerusalem.
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Thousands marched Tuesday in the town of Ramallah, carrying Palestinian flags and posters. Some read: "Return is our right and our destiny."
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Dozens of youngsters threw stones at Israeli troops near Ramallah, and soldiers fired tear gas to push them back.
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Meanwhile, students at Tel Aviv University held the first-ever Nakba Day event on campus on Monday, after the university permitted the ceremony to take place, saying, in a statement, "The process of approving the event was conducted in accordance with the law and university regulations." Hundreds of students held a counter-protest, denouncing the university and the students who organized and supported it.
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Before the event began on Monday, police arrested two activists, a participant in the ceremony and two protesters against it. One of the opponents of the ceremony burned a cardboard box with an illustration of the Palestinian flag.
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Some of the demonstrators carried signs reading, "Does anyone have a compass? Tel Aviv University has lost its way," "Israeli Arabs say no to the Nakba lie" and "Leftist hypocrites." One engineering student named Dan explained why he came to protest the event: "I returned from one month of reserve duty in uniform, and people shouted ´murderer´ at me on campus."
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Left-wing activists shouted in Arabic, "With blood and fire we will redeem you, Palestine." After listening to the chants in Arabic, anti- Nakba Day protesters called them traitors, and sang the Jewish song, "We have brought peace unto you" ["Hevenu Shalom Aleichem"] using the words, "We have brought a Nakba upon you."
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During the event, which was organized by Israeli "Big Brother" participant Saar Szekely, among others, activists read an alternative to the traditional Jewish mourning prayer "Yizkor" and a list of Arab villages they said were demolished by Israeli forces in 1948. Six Arab students recounted their personal stories and the audience stood in silence for one minute.
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Szekely addressed the audience and said, "It is sad that many people refuse to acknowledge the suffering of others, and this is a mistake we are trying to correct."
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Before the event began, the Knesset Education, Culture, and Sports Committee held a turbulent session, during which Chairman Alex Miller (Yisrael Beitenu) called on the university to cancel the event. "Today they are holding a memorial for Nakba Day, tomorrow they will hold a memorial for Nazis," Miller said.
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Arab MK Ahmad Tibi (Ra´am Ta´al) said, "We are talking about the collective suffering of a people who left their pots and pans on the fire while others occupied their homes when they were gone."
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MK Miri Regev (Likud) said, "An event that delegitimizes the State of Israel should be held in Gaza, not here."
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