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Land Day 2012: How the day unfolded

March 30, 2012 8:17 A.M. (Updated: April 7, 2012 5:16 P.M.)
BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- 2356: Here ends our live report of Land Day in Palestine and the region. Below is an account of the events as they unfolded on March 30, 2012.

2347: We asked popular struggle activist Abir Kopty to assess the day's events:

"To be honest, it can't be considered a success. Turnout was lower than hoped, and the march -- a march to Jerusalem -- turned to normal clashes with Israeli forces at checkpoints. People didn't try to keep going" toward Jerusalem.

However, "one actual success was we united. Not just in the occupied territory but in Arab states and elsewhere, all for this goal. Unity is so important for us, for Palestinians," she said. As for efforts by Palestinian security forces to stop the protests: "It's a shame. What else can I say? Just a shame."

2147: According to the Popular Struggle Coordination Committee, one of the groups helping to organize the protests, 34 protesters had been jailed by late Friday. They included 10 Palestinians arrested at the entrance of Nabi Saleh and 17 from Silwan in occupied East Jerusalem, among them the head of Fatah's portfolio in the city. (Israeli authorities say they arrested four people in Nabi Saleh and 14 in Jerusalem.)

2000: Amnesty International is urging Israel to tone down its use of force against demonstrators. In a statement, Amnesty's deputy head for the Middle East, Ann Harrison, says:

"News that Israeli forces are firing live ammunition on Land Day demonstrators near the Erez Crossing in Gaza, and that scores have been injured ... is extremely worrying, particularly in the light of frequent and persistent use of excessive force against Palestinian protesters.

"We are also concerned at reports that Palestinian Authority security forces have tried to prevent protests in areas under their control, while Hamas security forces have beaten protesters," she said. Both sides should respect freedom of assembly and international policing standards, she added.

1935: Calls returned -- the Israeli army says a man approached Erez before soldiers opened fire. It says forces acted within the rules of engagement, firing warning shots before directly targeting him.

1825: A young Palestinian man has been killed in a clash with Israeli forces in the northern Gaza Strip, says medical official Adham Abu Salmiya. The victim has been identified as Mahmoud Zakot, 20. He was shot near the Erez crossing, witnesses said. An Israeli military spokesman did not immediately return calls.

1740: Hezbollah's Sheikh Nabil Kauk reflects on Land Day: "The nation's right to the whole of Palestine is not dead. Palestine is not waiting for the Arab summit or international decisions.

"The Palestinian nation relies on the guns of fighters in Gaza, in Ramallah and in Bint Jbeil," Kauk said, according to an Israeli news website.

1737: A witness in Qalandiya, Jalal Abukhater, says Mustafa Barghouti was indeed the victim of an attack on partisan grounds. But he dismissed Leibovich's version of events as nonsensical.

1731: Demonstrations have continued all day in the Gaza Strip, where activists are reporting casualties after Israeli forces opened fire near the border.

Gaza medical official Adham Abu Salmiya reports over two dozen people injured -- three of them seriously -- after separate clashes near Beit Hanoun and Khan Younis.

Protester Ebaa Rezeq says she witnessed at least six of the injuries which came after Israeli forces fired on a crowd that had bypassed Hamas police checkpoints to arrive at the border area.

Rezeq says Israeli forces used live fire after they managed to remove a part of a metal fence near the wall. Israel says it fired warning shots at protesters near the border, but Rezeq disagrees.

"People are falling here like flies," she says. "Blood everywhere".

1624: Palestinian members of the Israeli Knesset have joined thousands protesting in northern Israel's Deir Hanna vilalge, Israeli media reporting.

1600: More than 15,000 people in Jordan, including opposition Islamists and trade unionists, have held a peaceful sit-in near the border with Israel, AFP reports.

According to the report, protesters waved signs that said, "Freedom for Jerusalem and freedom for Palestine," and "Jerusalem, here we come," as they gathered in Kafrein, some 10 kilometers from the border crossing and barely a kilometer and a half from the frontier.

1530: A Palestinian protester in Bethlehem has been seriously injured by a tear-gas canister, says a Ma'an correspondent at the scene. The correspondent photographed the aftermath of the incident during clashes between Palestinian youths and Israeli forces.

1519: An Israeli police officer has been lightly injured in Jerusalem; 14 protesters have been arrested for throwing stones, police spokesman Mickey Rosenfeld tells Ma'an.

1441: In south Lebanon, hundreds of Palestinian refugees are gathering near Beaufort Castle as large numbers of Lebanese troops look on, with barbed wire erected to ensure no one approached the flashpoint frontier, an AFP correspondent says.

1437: An Israeli military official is disputing PNI chief Mustafa Barghouti's explanation of how he was injured.

1432: Hamas security forces are also preventing protesters from reaching the border.

1426: Israel's military uploaded video showing the small fire on a watchtower in Bethlehem. Palestinians can also be seen hurling rocks at the structure connected to a checkpoint.

1403: Protester scales wall at Bethlehem checkpoint and places a Palestinian flag to huge cheers from the crowd. How'd he get that rope through the hole?

1335: Israeli forces heavily deployed in Jerusalem. Troops have blocked the entrances to Palestinian neighborhoods al-Isawiya, al-Tur and Wadi Joz, our correspondent says.

1331: Representatives of the Palestinian telecommunications network Jawwal are handing bottled water to protesters near Qalandiya checkpoint.

1315: Lawmaker Mustafa Barghouti has been injured by a tear-gas canister, activists say.

1321: Hundreds of protesters are streaming from Ramallah to Qalandiya checkpoint, where demonstrators are burning tires, chanting and waving flags.

Israeli forces are firing tear gas, rubber bullets, spraying foul-smelling chemical water and using a 'scream' acoustic device against the protesters.

An Israeli military spokesman says soldiers are using "riot dispersal means" to deal with protesters throwing rocks. No immediate reports of injury.

1320: Photo: A small fire erupted at the Israeli military watchtower at Bethlehem checkpoint but died out quickly. Probably a Molotov cocktail.

1315: Photo: Youths throwing stones at Israeli army watchtower at Bethlehem checkpoint; older protesters are calling them back.

1312: Hundreds of protesters break through Palestinian security forces and race toward Bethlehem checkpoint shouting "To Jerusalem." Palestinian forces have bolted, our reporter says.

No response from Israeli forces -- yet.

1300: In Nablus, hundreds of protesters head toward Bracha settlement near Iraq Burin, PA official says. Israeli forces firing tear gas and stun grenades at demonstrators, two villagers suffer gas inhalation.

1254: Israeli forces on high alert at frontier crossings with Lebanon and Syria.

1250: A group of protesters surged toward the checkpoint in Bethlehem, which is being guarded by a human wall of Palestinian security forces. Israeli forces are present and watching closely.

1236: Israeli forces have detained four people at a protest in Nabi Saleh, near Ramallah, an Israeli military spokesman says.

1231: Photo: In Bethlehem, Palestinian security forces have formed a human wall to block the protesters from reaching the checkpoint. All peaceful so far.

1226: A few hundred protesters are marching in Bethlehem toward the checkpoint to Jerusalem.

1131: Israeli media reporting that more troops were deployed to the northern border.

"The forces are equipped with crowd dispersal and anti-riot measures ... orders were given to the forces to maintain restraint and prevent protestors from reaching the border (fence)," reports Ynet news.

1115: Palestinians in the Old City of Jerusalem say Israeli forces have deployed by the hundreds. Along with a large media presence, the area surrounding the al-Aqsa Mosque is packed.

1100: A BBC reporter in Bethlehem says he's seeing plenty of Palestinian Authority security forces milling about. No surprises there.

1036: Osama Shomer, a student at Al-Azhar University in Gaza who is preparing to join demonstrations there, says Israeli warplanes are flying low overhead.

1031: Israeli authorities just made their first arrest of the day, according to a group which coordinates protests in the West Bank. Got a busy signal at Israeli army HQ.

1016: Around 4,000 Lebanese, Palestinian and foreign demonstrators are expected to march to the Beaufort Castle in Nabatiyeh, the Beirut-based Naharnet news is reporting.

1002: The US Consulate in Jerusalem is warning Americans to avoid the Old City today.

"The U.S. Consulate General takes this opportunity to remind U.S. citizens that demonstrations, even peaceful ones, can turn violent with little or no warning. U.S. citizens should be aware of their surroundings at all times, and avoid large crowds," according to the consulate's website.

0947: Israel is also patrolling the skies above Jerusalem, an activist reports.

0940: Israel's military tells us the occupied West Bank will be sealed off from Israel except under exceptional circumstances in line with "security assessments."

"In accordance with the directives of the Minister of Defense and as part of the situation assessments in the IDF, a general closure will be implemented in the Judea and Samaria region," army says.

0925: A reporter for The Jerusalem Post says security forces are already gathering up north.

0920: A program of events for the day can be found here. Most of the protests will kick off at 12:30, the program says. "It is expected that tens of thousands will participate".

0917: Palestinians are gathering in Israel and the occupied territories to mark Land Day, in commemoration of the 1976 suppression of protests that killed six people and created a movement.

Follow this live report for a minute-by-minute account of events as they unfold.
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