Protesters briefly trap worshipers inside Rachel’s Tomb, tangle with forces north of Jerusalem.
Palestinian protesters clashed with Israeli security forces at points throughout the West Bank Tuesday, though much of the country remained calm as Palestinians marked the anniversary of Israel’s founding, which they term the Nakba, or catastrophe.
About 20 worshipers visiting Rachel’s Tomb in Bethlehem were briefly trapped inside the complex under a hail of stones from dozens of Palestinian protesters, Yedioth Ahronoth reported.
Border Police from Jerusalem arrived to protect the site and Palestinian police dispersed protesters on the Palestinian side of the area.
North of Jerusalem, dozens of Palestinian youths threw stones at IDF soldiers manning the Qalandiya checkpoint. Soldiers responded with tear gas to disperse the youths, some of whom are masked. Clashes were also reported at an army checkpoint near Hebron.
The Palestinian Red Crescent said 30 people were hurt by the rubber bullets and dozens suffered from tear gas inhalation.
In Hamas-run Gaza, some 3,000 Palestinians marched to the local U.N. office. They carried banners reading “We shall return” and listing the names of their original villages. Haniyeh and several Hamas security officials ran a two-kilometer (1.5 mile) race that ended at the Palestinian parliament.
In Ramallah, where the main protest was planned, thousands of Palestinians marched from Yasser Arafat’s tomb to the Palestinain Authority government center in the city, carrying Palestinian flags and posters. Some read: “Return is our right and our destiny.”
An NGO representing Palestinian communities in Israel called on Palestinians to skip work and visit the sites of former villages.
In Tel Aviv, Arab MK Hanin Zoabi is scheduled to visit the offices of the Israeli-Palestinian NGO Zochrot Tuesday evening for a Nakba Day event.
Zoabi, whose controversial record includes remarks perceived as anti-Israel and an arrest for traveling on the Gaza aid flotilla ship Mavi Marmara in 2010, is often met at events by right-wing protesters.
Earlier in the day a rocket was fired from Gaza into an open area in the Sha’ar Hanegev region. No injuries or damage were reported. Overnight, Palestinians hurled Molotov cocktails at troops in Hebron.
Israel had ordered security forces and police to beef up their presence ahead of Nakba Day, after last year saw thousands of Palestinians try to storm Israel’s northern border.
Military intelligence sources have indicated that they don’t anticipate a repeat of last year’s events.
A senior IDF officer told Walla News that the army anticipates protests to be limited to Palestinian cities and contained by Palestinian security forces. The official said that military intelligence would be monitoring prayer services at mosques and public broadcasts to detect incitement and calls for violence.
“We anticipate demonstrations, but not at levels we are unaccustomed to,” said the officer.
The IDF has increased its presence along the Syrian, Lebanese, Egyptian, Gazan and West Bank borders for fear of attempted terror attacks, as well as to respond to any unexpected developments resulting from clashes between protesters and soldiers.The source said the army would not let the borders be breached and would “respond appropriately to any attempts” to breach them.
“We can’t ignore the recent high tensions, and therefore will place commanders at friction points and show as much restraint as possible,” said a senior officer of the Central Command.
During a visit to units in the field, IDF Chief of General Staff Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz said, “We are hoping for the best and preparing for the worst.”
The police are also on high alert and are preparing to be on hand for any violent flare-ups across the country, especially in Jerusalem, the West Bank and Arab villages in the north.
Emergency rescue services will also beef up manpower in preparation for being called up to treat multiple injuries in case violence erupts.
Despite the signing of a deal with Palestinian prisoners to bring to an end a massive hunger strike on Monday, prison services are on alert for riots.
In recent years, Nakba Day has been turned into a political display in support of the Palestinian cause around the world, and has seen some violent eruptions following demonstrations.
Last year, several hundred people, mostly Palestinian refugees, tried to storm Israel’s borders from Syria and Lebanon. This year the army expects that military and police forces in neighboring countries will stop a repeat of such attempts.
Story via Times of Israel