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Clashes mark Nakba Day in West Bank

Palestinian protesters commemorating Nakba Day clash with Israeli forces as they turn out in thousands all over occupied territories

AFP , Wednesday 15 May 2013
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Palestinian throws stone at Beitunia Nakba Day (Photo: Reuters)
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Protesters clashed Wednesday with Israeli forces in the West Bank as thousands of Palestinians commemorated the Nakba -- "catastrophe" -- of the Jewish state's creation in 1948, during which 760,000 Palestinians fled their homes.

Israeli soldiers fired rubber bullets at protesters gathered in front of Ofer military prison near Ramallah, wounding 15 of them, Palestinian medical officials said.

Demonstrators pelted soldiers with stones, the army said.

In east Jerusalem, police clashed with demonstrators outside the Old City's Damascus Gate, police spokeswoman Luba Samri told AFP, saying three policemen were injured and eight Palestinians arrested.

Thousands of Palestinians took to the streets in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip to demonstrate on Nakba Day and assert their "right to return" to where their ancestors fled after the Israeli victory over Arab armies.

Protesters held aloft Palestinian flags and replicas of the keys to the houses their families abandoned in 1948.

Some 1,000 people turned out in the northern West Bank town of Nablus, and another 300 in southern Hebron.

In Hamas-ruled Gaza, thousands of people gathered in the centre of Gaza City, holding placards that read "We will get back to Palestinian villages and towns, no matter how long it takes" and "The right of return is sacred and inalienable".

In Ramallah, where the Palestinian Authority is based, sirens sounded for 65 seconds, representing the 65 years of the existence of the modern state of Israel.

Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas in a televised speech on Tuesday evening said "there is no country in the world, including the United States of America, that denies our right to establish our independent state based on the 1967 borders" -- a reference to land occupied by Israel since the Six Day War.

"We are today a number (of people) and a truth that cannot be overlooked," he said.

In 1948, more than 760,000 Palestinians -- estimated today to number more than five million with their descendants -- fled or were driven out of their homes.

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.

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