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Low-level clashes as Palestinians mark Nakba Day (AFP) AGENCE FRANCE PRESSE) By Abbas Momani 05/15/12) Source: http://news.yahoo.com/israel-braces-unrest-ahead-nakba-day-190736890.html;_ylt=AhuX3CNIab6h.KS1rvUz33m1qHQA;_ylu=X3oDMTQ5c3RrNjVpBG1pdANUb3BTdG9yeSBXb3JsZFNGIE1pZGRsZUVhc3RTU0YEcGtnA2I2ZmEwMjY2LTM4NzQtM2M4NS05MTgyLWIzZWMyMjBiZmQyNARwb3MDMTUEc2VjA3RvcF9zdG
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Israeli forces faced off with Palestinian stone-throwers in the West Bank on Tuesday during the annual Nakba Day protests over the "catastrophe" that befell the Palestinians in 1948.
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At Beitunia checkpoint near Ramallah, youths hurled stones at troops, who fired tear gas, metal pellets and rubber bullets in a bid to break up the demonstration, an AFP correspondent said.
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Many protesters could be seen with blood on their faces as they waved black flags and roared angry slogans.
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Clashes also broke out at Qalandiya checkpoint south of Ramallah, where youths threw stones at Israeli troops, who fired tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse them, AFP correspondents said.
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A source at Ramallah´s government hospital told AFP that 17 people had been injured by rubber bullets, 15 at Beitunia and another two at Qalandia.
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There were also reports of clashes in Hebron and at Rachel´s Tomb on the edge of Bethlehem, where the Israeli military said 200 protesters confronted troops.
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Two soldiers were lightly injured, a spokesman said. The protesters were commemorating the "Nakba," when hundreds of thousands of Palestinians fled or were expelled from their homes in the war that accompanied Israel´s declaration of independence.
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But this year´s confrontations were largely low-level, in stark contrast with last year, when thousands tried to breach Israel´s northern frontiers, prompting troops to open fire, killing 10 people and injuring hundreds.
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In the West bank city of Ramallah, where president Mahmud Abbas has his headquarters, sirens wailed and hundreds of people at a rally in the central Clock Square stood in silence for 64 seconds -- one for each year of Israeli statehood.
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Cars flew black flags carrying a picture of a house key and the word "return" in English and Arabic to remember homes they left or were forced from which are now inside Israel, an AFP correspondent said.
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Further north, several thousand people gathered in Nablus city centre waving flags and calling for the right of return, with a similar number showing up in the southern city of Hebron.
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They also hailed the successful end of a mass hunger strike by Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails, which was resolved late on Monday.
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This year´s Nakba anniversary was to have been a protest over the ongoing mass hunger strike by 1,550 prisoners, most of whom refused food for between four and 11 weeks.
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But in a last-minute development, the dispute was resolved late on Monday when prisoner leaders signed a deal with Israel, agreeing to end their fast in exchange for an easing of their conditions.
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In Israeli-annexed east Jerusalem, clashes broke out in Issawiya between police and stone-throwers, with four people arrested, police and an AFP correspondent said.
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And in downtown Gaza City, thousands joined a march organised by the ruling Hamas movement.
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On a lighter note, Gaza´s Hamas prime minister Ismail Haniya joined dozens of other men, several sporting middle-age spread, in a 500- metre (yard) Nakba Day jog from the central Al-Jalaa Street to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
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Haniya and his companions wore track-suit bottoms and t-shirts with numbers, with others carrying Palestinian flags for the brief run, which was organised by the ministry of youth and sport.
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Arab Israelis also held a march near the northern town of Umm al-Fahm with around thousand people joining in, some carrying Palestinian flags, participants said.
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More than 760,000 Palestinians -- estimated today to number 4.8 million with their descendants -- fled or were driven out of their homes.
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Around 160,000 Palestinians stayed behind and are now known as Arab Israelis. They now number about 1.3 million people, or some 20 percent of the population. (Copyright © 2012 Agence France Presse. 05/15/12)
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