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ISRAELI troops clashed with Arab protesters along three hostile borders, including the frontier with Syria, leaving 16 people dead and dozens more wounded in an unprecedented wave of demonstrations marking a Palestinian day of mourning for their defeat at Israel’s hands in 1948.
The violence occurred on the anniversary of what Palestinians call the Nakba, or catastrophe, referring to their displacement in 1948 as a result of the creation of the state of Israel. Israelis celebrated their 63rd independence day last week.
Palestinian Authority prime minister Salam Fayyad said Nakba Day “is an occasion wherein Palestinians reaffirm the adherence and commitment to their legitimate rights including the right of return and self-determination in an independent state on the lands occupied in 1967”.
At least 30 Palestinians were injured in the Gaza Strip when Israeli tanks fired shells near demonstrators marching toward the border fence with Israel.
The army is investigating the incident, a military spokeswoman said.
Israeli police arrested several Arab residents of east Jerusalem for stone-throwing and have boosted forces in the city and in Arab communities in northern Israel to deal with further expected disturbances.
Israeli security forces clashed with Palestinians at several locations throughout the West Bank, with no serious injuries reported, the army said.
“I regret that there are extremists among Israeli Arabs and in neighbouring countries who have turned the day on which the state of Israel was established, the day on which the Israeli democracy was established, into a day of incitement, violence and rage,” Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu told his cabinet in Jerusalem.
A truck driver crashed into several vehicles in Tel Aviv, killing one person and injuring five, before he was arrested by police. The driver, a resident of the Arab town Kafr Kassem, said he lost control of the truck and the collision was an accident, police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said.
“Police are looking into whether the accident was deliberate,” Rosenfeld said, adding that there were indications this was the case.