Friday, November 24, 2017

65th Anniversary Nakba Commemorations in Ramallah

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By Sam Gilbert - May 16, 2013
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Section: [Main News] [In Pictures]
Tags: [ethnic cleansing] [forced transfer] [Nakba] [popular resistance] [Qalandiya checkpoint] [Ofer prison] [youth]

Commemoration in Ramallah's center and protest at the Qalandiya checkpoint. Photos by Eugene Peress.

 

On Wednesday 15 May Palestinians commemorated the 65th anniversary of the Nakba across the occupied Palestinian territories. Demonstrations ended up in clashes between the Palestinians and Israeli occupational forces in different parts of West Bank. Thousands of people gathered in Ramallah’s Yasser Arafat Square to mark the Nakba, Arabic for  “the Catastrophe”, a term used to refer to the occupation of Palestinian lands in 1948 by Israeli settlers, the expulsion of over 800,000 Palestinians and the subsequent creation of the state of Israel. Cities and communities throughout the occupied West Bank marked the 65th anniversary of the historic catastrophe with 65 seconds of silence. 

Dozens of Palestinian youth clashed with Israeli soldiers outside of Qalandia checkpoint, the main Israeli-controlled passageway between Ramallah and East Jerusalem. In an attempt to disperse the crowds, Israeli soldiers fired tear gas and stun grenades, injuring several of the demonstrators. Palestinian youth responded by throwing rocks and glass bottles. Adjacent to the checkpoint, lies Qalandia Refugee Camp, home to more than 10,000 refugees and a constant point of friction. Qalandia checkpoint remained open during the clashes, while people and cars attempted to pass through the crossfire of stones and tear gas canisters. Some of the cars got their windows smashed while caught up in clashes and a local car dealership’s glass windows were shattered by an errant tear gas canister. 
 


Protest near the Ofer prison. Photo by Sam Gilbert.

 
Ofer Prison
 
Approximately one-hundred Palestinian youth gathered on the road leading to Ofer Prison, in the Beitunia area of Ramallah, throwing rocks and Molotov cocktails and setting tires ablaze. The Israeli army responded by firing tear gas canisters and rubber bullets at the surrounding crowd.
 
“We are here to show the Israelis we are not afraid,  that we are with the prisoners at Ofer,” said one of the young demonstrators. A pattern emerged throughout the afternoon with Palestinians advancing along the road and the Israeli army periodically firing tear gas and charging out in jeeps to push the youthful crowds back towards the city.  Palestinians used slingshots to hurl stones and tear gas canisters towards the Israeli forces located along the road to the prison and the hills above.  
 
“We are here to show the Israelis we are not afraid,  that we are with the prisoners at Ofer” 
 
According to Palestinian medical officials fifteen demonstrators were wounded when Israeli soldiers fired rubber bullets at the stone-throwers (x).  Many Palestinians were overwhelmed by tear gas, as Israeli forces began shelling both in front of and behind the demonstrators engulfing the crowd in caustic smoke.  
 
The majority of the demonstrators were male and under eighteen years old.  Those that were much younger stayed on the margins observing the scene and frequently bringing water to those affected by the gas. As the day progressed the crowd along the road began to thin although live fire could be heard in the hills above as clashes continued into the evening.  
 
Ofer Prison has been the site of repeated demonstrations and clashes between Palestinians and the Israeli army over the years. The prison itself is a point of contention for Palestinians, who view its control by Israel and the regular imprisonment of Palestinian citizens without trial or charges as part of the larger system of Israeli domination in the occupied territories.
 
 

Tadas Blinda contributed to the reporting of this event.




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