Israel gunfire kills two on border: security official

AFP , Sunday 15 May 2011

Thousands of demonstrators gathering on the Lebanese side of the border with Israel to mark the 'nakba' are met with gunfire

Israeli army gunfire killed two and wounded 10 people others Sunday on the Lebanese side of the border as thousands of Palestinians gathered to mark the 1948 creation of Israel  known in Arabic as the "nakba" or "catastrophe," officials said.

A security official reported two dead in Maarun ar-Ras, one kilometre (less than a mile) from the Israeli border, as thousands of protesters, mainly Palestinian refugees living in Lebanon, were demonstrating.

An army spokesman earlier said "10 people in the vicinity of Maarun ar-Ras were injured by gunfire from Israeli soldiers."

Several dozen young demonstrators had managed to cross a Lebanese army cordon and massed near the border, shouting: "By our soul, our blood, we sacrifice ourselves for you, Palestine." Some threw stones towards the border, where Israeli soldiers were visible, an AFP correspondent said.

Shortly beforehand, the Lebanese army tried to disperse the crowd by firing into the air. The rally was held under the slogan "March for the return to Palestine."

Several dozen buses, bearing the names of Arab neighbourhoods abandoned upon Israel's establishment, brought men, women and children from the Bekaa Valley and further north to Maarun ar-Ras.

"The aim of the march is to remind younger generations born outside the homeland that the land of their parents and grandparents was stolen by Jews, that they were chased from these lands, which we must recover," said Ayad Abu Al-Aynayn, one of the rally's organisers.

The area around the Israeli side of the border is a closed military zone out of bounds to civilians, according to Israeli authorities.

The organisers of the rally told AFP that the Shia group Hezbollah, which fought a bloody war against Israel in 2006, had financed the event.

There are between 300,000 and 400,000 Palestinian refugees in Lebanon, most of them living in 12 overpopulated and heavily armed camps.

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