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Palestinians prepare to march on 40th Land Day

March 30, 2016 11:03 A.M. (Updated: March 30, 2016 6:31 P.M.)
(AFP/Jack Guez, File)
BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- Palestinians on Wednesday marked the 40th anniversary of Land Day, commemorating Palestinian protests against Israeli land seizures that were violently suppressed on March 30, 1976.

In recent years, Palestinians across both Israel and the occupied Palestinian territory have marched to mark the occasion, while large numbers of Israeli troops have been deployed to suppress the protests, frequently opening fire on the crowds.

Shops were closed across Palestinian-majority towns in Israel and local municipal offices closed as residents prepared to commemorate Land Day.

A committee representing Palestinian citizens of Israel, the High Follow-up Committee for Arab Citizens in Israel, urged citizens to join rallies and other activities being organized by to mark the occasion, including a major rally in the village of Um al-Heiran in the Negev and another in the village of Arraba al-Batouf in the Galilee.

This year's marches will follow a new wave of massive land grabs in the occupied Palestinian territory that rights groups say marks a return to an Israeli government policy not seen since the pre-Oslo period in the 1980s.

Earlier this month, Israeli declared 2,342 dunams (580 acres) of land to the south of Jericho "state land" to pave the way for the construction of 358 housing units in the illegal settlement of Almog.

The land confiscation south of Jericho followed that of around 5,000 dunams (1,240 acres) of Palestinian land in Bethlehem district in 2014.

"Instead of trying to calm the situation, the government is adding fuel to the fire and sending a clear message to Palestinians, as well as to Israelis, that it has no intention to work towards peace and two states," Israeli settlement watchdog Peace Now said this month.

The 1976 protests against Israeli land confiscations were sparked when Israeli authorities announced plans to confiscate 21,000 dunams (5,190 acres) of land from several Palestinian villages in Galilee, northern Israel.

Palestinians living in these villages called a general strike, and clashes broke out when Israeli forces attempted to suppress the strike.

Six Palestinians were killed, four by the Israeli army and two by Israeli police, and more than a hundred were injured.

The day marked the first mass act by Palestinians living inside Israel and also served as a major symbol of the unity of Palestinians on both sides of the 1949 Armistice Line.

Palestinians with Israeli citizenship, whose population has risen from approximately 150,000 in 1976 to some 1.3 million today, still mark Land Day to demonstrate their continued will to hold onto their land and homes.

Shops were closed across Palestinian-majority towns in Israel as residents prepared to commemorate Land Day.

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