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Refugee 'return rallies' planned for June

May 21, 2011 12:37 P.M. (Updated: May 23, 2011 11:19 P.M.)
JERUSALEM (Ma'an) -- Masses of Palestinian refugees will march to Israel's borders and ceasefire lines again on June 5, organizers of the May 15 "return rally" said.

On Sunday, 14 protesters were killed when Israeli forces opened fire on thousands of refugees trying to return to their land in Israel.

The May 15 rallies were held to mark Nakba Day, the anniversary of Palestinians' expulsion from their homes and villages as the state of Israel was established in 1948.

Israeli soldiers shot dead 10 Palestinian refugees trying to cross Lebanon's border into Israel. Troops shot dead four refugees trying to enter the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights.

Hundreds were injured when Israeli forces fired tear-gas grenades and rubber-coated steel bullets at Palestinians rallying at Qalandiya checkpoint, which separates the occupied West Bank from Jerusalem.

Israeli forces killed a Palestinian teenager at a simultaneous protest at the Erez crossing in the northern Gaza Strip.

The committee organizing the "return rallies" said Saturday that the May 15 protests were "just the beginning."

In a statement, the group called on all Palestinian refugees living in exile to march peacefully to the borders of historic Palestine on June 5.

The date marks the anniversary of the 1967 war, when Israel occupied southern Lebanon, the Golan Heights, East Jerusalem, Gaza and the West Bank.

Thousands of refugees will march to the ceasefire lines in the West Bank and Gaza as well as borders with Syria, Jordan and Lebanon, the committee said.

"The Israeli occupation should remain on alert because rallies will not stop until Palestinian refugees return to Haifa, Haffa, Al-Majdal, Bi'r As-Sab and all occupied Palestinian towns," the statement added.

The group urged Palestinian lawyers to file legal proceedings against Israeli officials for the killing of non-violent demonstrators on Nakba Day.

Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International called for investigations into the killings.

"In a too-familiar pattern, Israeli troops responded to stone-throwing youths with live bullets, with predictably deadly consequences," said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch.

She added: "The evidence shows a disturbing disregard for protesters' lives."

Amnesty International said Israel used "excessive force, killing and maiming individuals who were not posing a threat to the lives of the soldiers or others" at the protests.
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