Clashes as Palestinians demand right of return 15May11 May 16, 2011

Ma’an News Agency -  15 May 2011

More than 100 were injured by Israeli forces during protests demanding the right of return for Palestinian refugees as tens of thousands came out to commemorate the Nakba on Sunday.

Commemorating the Palestinian expulsion from homes and villages in 1948 that accompanied the declaration of the state of Israel, an estimated 1,000 marched from the northern Gaza town of Beit Hanoun toward the Israeli border.

A medic told AFP that several hundred people had bypassed a Hamas checkpoint to come within a few hundred meters of a concrete border barrier installed by Israel near the Erez checkpoint.

Protesters calling for the right of return identified an Israeli patrol car, and began throwing stones and condemning Israel’s continued siege on the coastal enclave, which is populated by mostly refugees.

Teenagers began throwing stones at an Israeli tank, which opened fire towards them.

Medics told Ma’an that at least 60 demonstrators were injured by artillery shells and gunfire. The injured were mostly children, and some were critically injured, medical officials said. One journalist was also injured. They were taken by ambulances to hospitals in the northern Gaza Strip.

55 injured near Ramallah

In the West Bank, violent clashes broke out at the Qalandiya checkpoint between Ramallah and Jerusalem as Palestinians hurled stones, and troops responded with tear gas and rubber bullets in the morning, with later reports saying live fire was being used.

Medics said 55 were evacuated from the protest in ambulance, and witnesses estimated six had been detained. Medics told AFP that at least one was badly injured, hit in the head with a rubber-coated bullet.

The air at Qalandiya was thick with tear gas, which permeated through the adjacent Qalandiya refugee camp, prompting parents to keep young children indoors.

An Israeli army spokeswoman said there were “around 200 people who were engaged in rioting” with border police using riot dispersal means to try and break up the disturbance.

In Ramallah’s city center, Palestinians demanding the right of return for refugees held banners and waved flags. One large banner, shaped as a postcard, read:

Dear Haifa,

We are returning.

A Palestinian refugee

Demonstrators gathered at the northern entrance to Birzeit University north of Ramallah, setting fire to used tires and throwing stones at Israeli troops stationed at Atara checkpoint.

Israeli forces fired rubber-coated bullets, tear-gas canisters and stun grenades at protesters. Several demonstrators fainted after choking on the gas, witnesses said.

Clashes were also reported in the East Jerusalem district of Issawiya, with youths throwing stones and hurling Molotov cocktails, police said.

“Stones were thrown at police. Three people were arrested and one police officer was slightly injured,” Rosenfeld said.

Five detained in Al-Walaja events

Give were detained from what organizers called a “peaceful nonviolent civil disobedient march” in the West Bank village of Al-Walaja, where Palestinians and international supporters gathered for a work day to help residents of the village farm lands they have been denied access to as construction of the separation wall continues through private lands.

According to organizers, two foreign nationals and three Palestinians were among those detained, including prominent civil society member Mazen Qumsiyeh.

An estimated 150 people had staged the work day, marching toward the confiscated lands waving black flags and Palestinian flags, shouting: “Go away, go away! We don’t want to see the Zionists,” an AFP correspondent said

Israeli forces deploy en masse in West Bank

Israel Defense Minister Ehud Barak instructed forces to seal off the West Bank for 24 hours, starting at midnight Saturday.

Israel’s general police commander Yohanan Danino told Israel Radio that officers would detain rioters.

Israeli police are on high alert, and 10,000 officers and border guards will be deployed in Jerusalem and the West Bank.

“We have mobilized thousands of police officers who are deployed in sensitive areas, particularly in Jerusalem and in the Wadi Ara area,” spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said, referring to a northern area near Haifa which has a large population of Palestinians.

“Our forces have been placed on high alert in order to allow the planned events to go ahead, but we will not tolerate any violation of public order,” Rosenfeld added.

Overnight, police arrested 13 Palestinians following demonstrations in occupied East Jerusalem, raising to 63 the total number arrested since Friday, he said, adding that eight police had been injured.

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