Nearly 50 Palestinians were injured Wednesday by Israeli troops as they protested across the West Bank and Gaza to mark the 71st anniversary of their mass displacement during the 1948 war, officials said.
Thousands of people congregated at the Gaza border with Israel for demonstrations known as the “nabka” — or “catastrophe” — in which hundreds of thousands of Palestinians fled or were forced out of their homes during the war that surrounded the creation of Israel.
More than 60 Palestinians were killed during last year’s demonstrations, which coincided with the opening of the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem after it had been relocated from Tel Aviv.
Smoke rises from fires on Israeli farmland caused by arson balloons launched from Gaza City, Wednesday, May 15, 2019.
(AP Photo/Hatem Moussa)
The Gaza Health Ministry told Reuters on Wednesday that at least 47 people were wounded after witnesses said Israeli troops fired tear gas, rubber bullets at them and live ammunition at them.
Roughly 10,000 protesters gathered along the Gaza Strip, the Israeli military said.
“The rioters are setting tires on fire and hurling rocks. A number of explosive devices have been hurled within the Gaza Strip, as well, and a number of attempts have been made to approach the security fence. IDF troops are responding with riot dispersal means.”
Palestinians attend a protest by the Israeli border with Gaza Strip, Wednesday, May 15, 2019.
(AP Photo/Muhammed Dahman)
The demonstration comes two weeks after a cease-fire was reached to end two fierce days of fighting. A Qatari envoy, who has been helping mediate the cease-fire, has urged Hamas to keep Wednesday’s demonstration restrained.
There are an estimated 5 million Palestinian refugees across the Middle East. Their fate is one of the core issues of dispute between Israel and the Palestinians. Israel rejects demands for a mass return of refugees to long-lost homes, saying it would threaten the country’s Jewish character.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.