OCCUPIED JERUSALEM - With rallies staged across the occupied lands, thousands of Palestinians marked Land Day on Friday, March 30, as Israeli troops used force to disperse the demonstrators.
"We are determined to march together toward Jerusalem, and hopefully we will break through and reach it," Rimawi, a young Palestinian, told Reuters as he faced off against Israeli soldiers in the West Bank city Ramallah.
Israeli forces fire rubber bullets, tear gas and stun grenades to break up Palestinian protestors in at Qalandia checkpoint in the occupied West Bank.
The protestors were forced back by Israeli forces after being sprayed with foul smelling liquid from a water cannon.
"There is a riot taking place at Qalandia. Rioters are throwing stones at the IDF (Israel Defense Force) and burning tyres, and the IDF is responding with riot dispersal means," a military spokesman told Agence France-Presse (AFP).
Witnesses reported clashes at gates leading into Jerusalem's Old City, with police limiting access to Al-Aqsa Mosque, Islam's third holiest shrine.
A Reuters reporter saw two Palestinians being carried away injured after scuffles with Israeli forces.
There were also confrontations in Bethlehem, where Palestinians hurled petrol bombs at an Israeli watchtower.
Medics in the Gaza Strip said the Israelis also used live fire to prevent protesters from nearing the frontier wall, seriously wounding one man.
Land Day commemorates the killing by Israeli forces of six Arabs in 1976 during protests against government plans to confiscate land in the Galilee region.
Palestinian organizers called for peaceful rallies against the Israeli policies and said solidarity protests were planned in some 80 nations.
Previous remembrances have mostly passed quietly, but Israel decided to reinforce its defenses following deadly clashes along the Lebanese and Syrian borders in May that appeared to catch the military off guard.
Hundreds of protestors also gathered on Lebanese borders to mark the Palestine Land Day.
"The Arabs have finally woken, and now things will change even there," Muhamed Yusif Abu Shaikh, 67, told CNN outside Sidon as he pointed south, to the border.
Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said Land Day celebrates a right to freedom.
"The freedom defenders who will partake in these peaceful demonstrations and rallies around the world are marching for dignity toward Jerusalem.
"Together with them, Palestinians will continue their certain path toward national independence," he said.
Israel is wary of growing unrest in the occupied Palestinian territories, with peace talks stalled for months and Palestinian leaders refusing to return to the negotiating table until Israel halts all Jewish settlement building in the West Bank.
Leading Palestinian activist Marwan Barghouti, serving multiple life sentences in an Israeli jail for orchestrating attacks, called on Monday for a new wave of civil resistance in the decades-long quest for statehood.
On high alert along its borders, police were also wary of possible friction within the boundaries of Israel, where the Arab minority was planning protests.Arabs make up about a fifth of Israel's total population. Many complain of discrimination.