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Thursday, 23 September 2021

Palestinians clash with Israeli forces on Nakba Day

AFP , Thursday 15 May 2014
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, left, and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, right.(Photo:Reuters)

Palestinians in the West Bank clashed with Israeli forces Thursday, the 66th anniversary of the Nakba or "catastrophe" of the Jewish state's creation when 760,000 Palestinians fled their homes.

About 150 people demanding the release of thousands of Palestinians held by Israel protested near Ofer prison, outside Ramallah, and border policemen shot one in the chest.

Palestinian medics said the wounded man was undergoing surgery in a Ramallah hospital.

At the Qalandiya checkpoint between Jerusalem and Ramallah, protestors set fire to tyres and hurled stones at border police who responded with "riot dispersal means," an army spokesman told AFP, using the term usually applied to the use of rubber bullets or tear gas.

In the Gaza Strip, hundreds of people, some carrying Palestinian flags or banners calling for refugees to be allowed to return to their former homes, marched near the Erez crossing with Israel.

In the West Bank, rallies were held in the cities of Nablus and Hebron.

In Ramallah, where Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas has his headquarters, people on the streets stood in silence for 66 seconds while sirens wailed.

"On this 66th anniversary of the Nakba we hope that this year will be the one in which our long suffering ends," Abbas said in a speech broadcast on Palestinian TV and radio on Wednesday evening.

"It is time to put an end to the longest occupation in modern history and time for Israel's leaders to understand that there is no other homeland for the Palestinians but Palestine," he said.

After nearly nine months of fruitless US-sponsored peace talks, Israel suspended its participation in negotiations last month when Abbas's Palestine Liberation Organisation announced a unity deal with the Hamas militants who run the Gaza Strip.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had also insisted the Palestinians explicitly recognise Israel as a Jewish state, a demand rejected by Abbas.

"Palestine has recognised Israel's right to exist since 1988," Palestinian chief peace negotiator Saeb Erakat wrote in a commentary published Thursday in left-leaning Israeli daily Haaretz.

"We are not asking for Hebrew not to be an official language or Jewish holidays not to be official holidays. The character of Israel is not for us to define," he wrote.

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

Around 160,000 stayed behind and became Israeli citizens. They and their descendants currently number about 1.4 million people, or some 20 percent of Israel's population.

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