Israeli Arab commemoration of 24th Land Day turns violent

Another five Palestinians were wounded in additional March 30 demonstrations in the West Bank and Gaza.

An Israel Defense Force spokesman noted that in some instances, security forces were forced to use rubber bullets and tear gas to disperse demonstrators, but noted that there was full coordination with the Palestinian police.

In recent years, Land Day rallies have not been violent, but events in Sachnin heated up when thousands of people who marched through the town reached a point near the western entrance where a new military establishment is being constructed.

Sachnin residents, opposed to the project, say the land should be under the municipal jurisdiction.

During the march, the demonstrators, estimated by organizers at more than 10,000, carried scores of Palestinian flags and chanted slogans.

A group of several dozen youths broke away and tried to pull down the fence surrounding the construction site, then torched trees. Others spotted Israeli police in the vicinity and ran toward them, hurling stones. The police, who had kept away from the center of town during the parade, responded by firing tear gas and rubber bullets.

Eight police and border police officers were injured, as were about 20 others, including several stonethrowers, demonstrators caught in the middle and a number of photographers beaten by rioters.

Among those lightly injured were Knesset member Mohammed Baraki of Hadash and Mohammed Zeidan, who is head of the Israeli Arab leadership's monitoring committee and chairman of the forum of Arab council heads.

The Arab leadership had called a general strike to mark Land Day this year to protest what was described as ongoing confiscation of Arab-owned land for military bases near Sachnin and Umm el-Fahm, which is inland between Tel Aviv and Haifa, and for constructing the planned Trans-Israel Highway.

It also cited the financial plight of Arab councils, the problem of illegally built homes and unrecognized villages, higher unemployment among Arabs, and an overall sense of frustration that the government is doing little to solve these and other problems.

Zeidan, who was hit in the leg by a rubber bullet when he tried to intervene between the sides, said he was saddened by the violence but nevertheless hoped some good would emerge.