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Terrorism & Security

Israeli efforts to defuse 'Land Day' tensions fail as clashes erupt at checkpoint

Some Palestinian protesters threw rocks at Israeli soldiers amid Land Day commemorations of the 1976 killing of six Palestinian citizens of Israel. Israeli forces responded with tear gas.

By Staff writer / March 30, 2012

Palestinian protesters shout during a protest marking Land Day, near the border between Israel and the northern Gaza Strip on March 30. Israeli security forces fired rubber bullets, tear gas and stun grenades to break up groups of Palestinian stone-throwers on Friday as annual Land Day rallies turned violent.

Suhaib Salem/Reuters

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 Despite Israeli efforts to block unrest, soldiers clashed with Palestinian protesters at a key checkpoint between Israel and the West Bank today as Palestinians turned out en masse in Israel and the West Bank to mark Land Day.

The day commemorates the 1976 killing of six Palestinian citizens of Israel by Israeli soldiers as they protested against expropriation of their land in northern Israel. To mark Land Day this year, Palestinian activists called for a “Global March to Jerusalem.”

The Israeli newspaper Haaretz reports Israeli forces were put on high alert early today. All checkpoints between Israel and the West Bank were closed for 24 hours and additional troops were deployed along the borders with Gaza, Lebanon, and Syria. Protesters at the Qalandia checkpoint threw rocks at soldiers stationed there, who responded with stun grenades and tear gas.

Lebanon announced it was ratcheting up its security in its south, setting up checkpoints in the area and blocking efforts to march to the border. The protest has been rerouted to end elsewhere, Haaretz reports.

Last May, thousands of Palestinians gathered in the West Bank, Gaza, and along the borders with Lebanon and Syria – with some of them attempting to cross into Israel – to commemorate Nakba Day, which marks Israel’s creation in 1948. Several were killed as they tried to cross the border. Israel’s precautions today are an attempt to avert the bloody clashes that left 12 dead and hundreds injured, Agence France-Presse reports.

By midday, Israeli forces had released tear gas into the crowds at Qalandia checkpoint, according to a Guardian correspondent on site who has been providing regular updates to a liveblog. She writes:

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