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Tensions High as Palestinians Rally for 'Land Day'

'Israeli forces must not resort to unnecessary or excessive force as they so often have done in the past,' warns Amnesty

- Jacob Chamberlain, staff writer

Young Palestinian protester arrested in Jerusalem during pre-Land Day rally, 29 March 2014 (Saeed Qaq / APA images)Over a thousand protesters rallied in the northern Israeli town of Arraba on Sunday in addition to numerous rallies in the West Bank and Gaza commemorating Land Day, the annual day of protest against the Israeli occupation and the deaths of six unarmed citizens during a mass protest against Israeli land siezures in 1976.

As Agence-France Presse reports:

In the northern Israeli town of Arraba, more than a thousand people turned out for the main demonstration, many waving Palestinian flags, an AFP correspondent said.

A smaller gathering was also taking place in an unrecognized Bedouin village called Sawawil in the southern Negev desert. [...]

In annexed east Jerusalem, some 70 demonstrators gathered outside the walls of the Old City by Damascus Gate, throwing stones and chanting slogans, a police spokeswoman told AFP, adding that the rally was quickly broken up and one person arrested.

Six protesters were arrested during a pre-Land Day rally in Jerusalem on Saturday as police clashed with dozens in Jerusalem. Several demonstrators and four journalists including photographers from AFP and Reuters were injured.

As tensions remained high on Sunday, human rights organization Amnesty International warned Israel to not use violence against protesters.

“Amid news of plans for forced evictions of Bedouin in the Negev/Naqab, demolitions of Palestinian homes in the West Bank and the often lethal enforcement of a no-go zone in Gaza, ‘Land Day’ demonstrations will protest ongoing policies as well as commemorate historical events. Israeli forces must not resort to unnecessary or excessive force as they so often have done in the past,” said Philip Luther, Director of the Middle East and North Africa Program at Amnesty International.

“Israel’s authorities have failed to respect the right of Palestinians to exercise their right to freedom of peaceful assembly," Luther added. "Amnesty International’s researchers will be monitoring events on Sunday closely to examine whether the rights of demonstrators are respected.”