Our Woman In Jerusalem

Rachel Bell



Palestinians killed during Israel's 50th anniversary celebration


Eight Palestinians were killed and dozens were injured from Israel Defense Forces' gunfire during Palestinian disturbances marking the Naqba - the 50th anniversary of the "disaster" of the founding of the State of Israel.

In towns and cities in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, and in refugee camps, hundreds of thousands of Palestinians demonstrated and rioted. At the beginning of the disturbances, the Palestinian police did not intervene, but when fierce confrontations developed between the demonstrators and IDF troops, and the fear arose that matters might get out of control, the Palestinian police began to help maintain order. The most serious incidents occurred in the Gush Katif area, in three places: Morag, Netzarim, and the Gush Katif road junction.

The IDF closed the area to vehicles and settlers, because of the fear that the lives of residents of the area were at risk. A special situation room was set up in the Gaza Coast Regional Council, and efforts were made in the afternoon to enable agricultural produce from hothouses in the area, designated for export to Europe, to be transported.

The disturbances reached a peak in the early afternoon, when violent confrontations developed between Palestinian youths and IDF soldiers who tried to halt the mob, many of whom threw stones and other objects at them.

The troops mainly fired rubber bullets and smoke grenades, but the Palestinians claimed that dozens were wounded by the fire, and, as mentioned, three people were killed.

All those killed were in the Gush Katif area, where it was also reported that thirty people were injured.

The French news agency correspondent reported that IDF forces deployed two tanks and an armoured car against the demonstrators, and that many troops were called to the spot to reinforce the IDF presence.

There were severe incidents in Hebron as well, mainly in the Casbah area, where Palestinian youths hurled objects at IDF troops. At least ten of the demonstrators were injured in the disturbances.

There were mass rallies in all West Bank cities and in the refugee camps to mark the "disaster" of the establishment of the Jewish state. During the rallies, which later developed into demonstrations, speeches were heard in favor of the Palestinians right of return. The IDF forbade Israeli traffic to enter West Bank cities.

At most of the demonstrations, there were calls for a Palestinian right of return to homes within the State of Israel, and the speakers did not suffice with calls for the establishment of a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza.

An Israeli policeman and a Reuters photographer were injured in East Jerusalem in Naqba demonstrations. The Reuters photographer was injured by a rubber bullet in the back of the neck. The Israeli policeman was injured by a bottle thrown at him. The police, backed by Border Guards, used truncheons and tear gas to disperse hundreds of Palestinian demonstrators after they hurled stones and bottles at them in Salah a-Din Street in East Jerusalem. {GLOBES 5/15 H}