Palestinians and Arab-Israelis yesterday marked Nakba Day, commemorating the exodus of hundreds of thousands of their kin after the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948.
Thousands marched in the town of Ramallah, carrying Palestinian flags and posters. Some read: “Return is our right and our destiny.”
Dozens of youngsters threw stones at Israeli troops near Ramallah, and soldiers fired tear gas to push them back.
A correspondent said clashes also broke out early yesterday between police and stone-throwing demonstrators in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Issawiya.
Protests were scheduled to take place across the Palestinian Territories, including the Ofer military prison and Qalandia checkpoint.
Israel also said a projectile fired from Gaza landed in the country’s south, though it was unclear if it was linked to the Nakba commemoration.
“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 said.
Israeli security forces are on alert for the Nakba Day commemorations, which have in the past often resulted in clashes with troops and police.
The Higher Arab Monitoring Committee, which represents Arab communities in Israel, has called for a general strike and for Arab-Israelis to visit the sites of former Palestinian villages.
May 15 has traditionally been the day when Palestinians mark the Nakba, or “catastrophe,” when hundreds of thousands of them fled or were expelled from their homes in a war that accompanied Israel’s declaration of independence.
More than 760,000 Palestinians — estimated today to number 4.7 million with their descendants — fled or were driven out of their homes.
About 160,000 Palestinians stayed behind and are now known as Arab-Israelis. They now number about 1.3 million people, or about 20 percent of the population.
Rosenfeld said on Monday that extra forces would be deployed in anticipation of Nakba Day.
“We are coordinating with the military and border police, we hope things will be quiet,” he said. “We have mobilized a number of units in various areas.”
Additional reporting by AP