Palestinians marching to remember those displaced at the time of the 1948 founding of Israel clashed with Israeli forces in the occupied West Bank today, leaving several wounded. Annual marches are held on May 15 to mark what Palestinians call the "Nakba," or catastrophe in Arabic. At a checkpoint on the outskirts of Ramallah, dozens of Palestinian youths hurled rocks at Israeli soldiers, who responded with rubber bullets and the foul-smelling riot control spray known as skunk. A Palestinian emergency worker said that 11 Palestinians were taken to hospital, most of them wounded by rubber bullets.
The extent of their injuries was not known. Earlier, thousands of people carrying Palestinian flags marched through the city, many carrying large keys to symbolise their claims to the homes they lost in 1948. "I come every year to commemorate this anniversary, this catastrophe," said Salha Orabi, a descendant of refugees and now a resident of the nearby Jelazoun refugee camp. "The Nakba for us symbolises destruction," he added. "It is us who have left our homes and our land." In Bethlehem, hundreds of Palestinians stoned Israeli troops guarding the tomb of biblical matriarch Rachel, a shrine venerated by Jews and Muslims, an AFP photographer said. Soldiers fired tear gas and stun grenades, but the number of Palestinian casualties was not immediately known. In the 1948 Nakba, mourned by Palestinians each May 15, more than 760,000 Palestinians fled or were driven from their homes in the war surrounding Israel's declaration of independence. For the Palestinians, the right to return to homes they fled or were forced to leave is a prerequisite for any peace agreement with Israel, but it is a demand the Jewish state has rejected. The anniversary came this year against the backdrop of a hunger strike by Palestinians in Israeli prisons, led by jailed leader Marwan Barghouti. In what the Palestine Liberation Organisation said in a statement was a message from his solitary confinement cell, he said the fast, in its 29th day today, would go on indefinitely. "My oath and pledge to the prisoners and our people is to pursue the battle for freedom and dignity until it reaches its stated goals," he said.
(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)