Palestinians protested yesterday for the annual commemoration of what they call the Nakba, or catastrophe, when hundreds of thousands were expelled or fled during the 1948 war surrounding the creation of Israel.
Thousands gathered at various locations along the volatile border fence between Israel and the Gaza Strip, while crowds also demonstrated in the occupied West Bank.
Protests and clashes in Gaza a year earlier, which coincided with the controversial move of the US embassy to Israel to Jerusalem, had seen more than 60 Palestinians killed by Israeli fire but yesterday’s were far smaller.
The clashes yesterday erupted along parts of the border fence, with the health ministry in Hamas-run Gaza reporting 65 people injured, including 16 with gunshot wounds. Protesters largely avoided approaching the fence, an AFP journalist said.
The AFP journalist on the border saw a number of kites being floated across the border and a fire breaking out inside Israeli territory.
Palestinians in Gaza have regularly used kites with firebombs attached to them to set fires on the Israeli side of the fence.
Israel’s military said around 10,000 “rioters and demonstrators” were along the Gaza fence.
“The rioters are setting tyres on fire and hurling rocks,” it said in a statement. “A number of explosive devices have been hurled within the Gaza Strip as well, and a number of attempts have been made to approach the security fence.”
It said “troops are responding with riot dispersal means.”
In the West Bank city of Ramallah, protesters held up giant paper keys to symbolise their will to return to the lands and homes they were expelled from or were forced to abandon, now located inside Israel.
Palestinians commemorate the Nakba every year.
More than 700,000 Palestinians fled or were expelled from their land during the 1948 war surrounding the creation of Israel.
This year’s protests came two weeks after a deadly flare-up between Gaza militants and Israel which threatened to spill into a new war.
After two days a truce was reached under which Israel is meant to ease its blockade of the strip in exchange for calm, according to Hamas officials.
Israel has not commented on the truce.
Bassem Naim, a senior Hamas figure, told AFP yesterday at a protest site east of Gaza City the “truce understandings played a role in controlling the demonstrations”.
Separately, there have also been regular protests and clashes along the Gaza border for more than a year.
At least 293 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli fire in Gaza since the protests began in March 2018.
The majority died during the often-violent weekly protests, though others were killed in Israeli air strikes or by tank fire in response to violence from Gaza.
Six Israelis have been killed in Gaza-related violence over the same time period.
Violence peaked on May 14, 2018 when 62 Palestinians were killed by Israeli fire as tens of thousands approached the border, with many seeking to breach the fence.
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