JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Israeli security forces shot dead one man in the Gaza Strip on Friday, medics said, and clashed with Palestinian stone-throwers around Jerusalem during “Land Day” rallies that turned violent.
Border police fired tear gas, rubber bullets and stun grenades at crowds of Palestinian youths who tried to break past checkpoints to the north and south of Jerusalem in coordinated protests to mark Israeli land confiscations in the 1970s.
Medics in the Gaza Strip said the soldiers used live fire to prevent protesters from approaching the border of the coastal enclave, killing a 20-year-old man and wounding 37 others.
Palestinian activists called for a “Global March to Jerusalem” to coincide with the 36th anniversary of so-called Land Day, and although there were rallies in Israel, police said crowd numbers were relatively small and largely trouble free.
Israeli forces were put on high alert on the frontiers with Lebanon and Syria, but there were no reports of anyone nearing the frontier fences, unlike last year when several demonstrators were killed in separate protests.
Violence flared at checkpoints in the occupied West Bank to the north and south of Jerusalem. Witnesses also reported disturbances at gateways into the Old City, with police limiting access to the Muslims’ revered al-Aqsa Mosque.
A West Bank medic said 220 people were hurt in the clashes, but none were thought to be in serious condition.
Jerusalem is a focal point of conflict, as Palestinians want the city’s eastern sector, captured by Israel in a 1967 war, as capital of a future state. Israel has annexed East Jerusalem as part of its capital and says the city must remain united.
“We are determined to march together toward Jerusalem, and hopefully we will break through and reach it,” said a masked youth, calling himself Rimawi, as he faced off against soldiers on the edge of the West Bank city Ramallah, near Jerusalem.
Flag-waving crowds neared the Qalandiya crossing out of Ramallah, some of them hurling stones at the security forces, but were forced back when border police fired tear gas and sprayed them with foul smelling liquid from a water cannon.
There were also confrontations in Bethlehem, where Palestinians threw petrol bombs at an Israeli watchtower. One man was critically wounded when he was hit in the head by a tear gas canister, activists said.
Land Day commemorates the killing of six Arabs in 1976 during protests against the confiscation of their land in Israel’s Galilee region. Arabs make up around 20 percent of Israel’s total population and often complain of discrimination.
Previous annual remembrances have mostly passed quietly, but Israel decided to reinforce its defences this year following deadly clashes along the Lebanese and Syrian frontiers in May and June that appeared to catch the military off guard.
Israel is wary of growing unrest in the Palestinian Territories, with peace talks stalled for months and Palestinian leaders refusing to return to the negotiating table until Israel halts all Jewish settlement building in the West Bank.
Leading Palestinian activist Marwan Barghouti, serving multiple life sentences in an Israeli jail for allegedly orchestrating suicide attacks, called on Monday for a new wave of civil resistance in the decades-long quest for statehood.
Additional reporting by Ali Sawafta and Noah Browning in Ramallah, Eli Berizon in Jerusalem and Nidal al-Mughrabi in Gaza; Writing by Crispian Balmer; Editing by Alistair Lyon