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Massive Marches Against Israel Fail to Materialize

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Palestinian protesters in Bethlehem on Friday, Mar. 30 (PHOTO CREDIT: TOVAH LAZAROFF)Skirmishes Centered near Jerusalem, West Bank

Palestinian “Land Day” actions against Israel, billed by organizers as a massive worldwide protest, failed to meet expectations on Friday (Mar. 30). The demonstrations were relatively small and marked by sporadic violence mostly centering on Jerusalem and the West Bank.

Palestinians threw rocks and security forces responded with tear gas at the Qalandiyah checkpoint north of Jerusalem. At the border crossing near Rachel’s Tomb south of the city near Bethlehem, about 300 protesters hurled stones at security forces and some threw Molotov cocktails.

At Nablus Gate and Lion’s Gate in Jerusalem, hundreds of protesting Palestinians were dispersed by the IDF and Border Police, and fourteen were arrested. Some protesters were lightly injured.

As of the afternoon, about 8,000 demonstrators had gathered in Jordan and around a few thousand in southern Lebanon, where authorities said they would not be allowed to approach the border.

Israeli security authorities were on alert. Under orders of Defense Minister Ehud Barak, all West Bank crossing points were closed for 24 hours and troops were added along the Lebanese, Syrian and Gaza borders. At the Temple Mount, police were limiting entry for prayers to women and men over 40 with Israeli identity cards.

“The IDF is prepared for any eventuality and will do whatever is necessary to protect Israeli borders and residents,” according to an Israeli army statement issued in advance of the demonstrations. Israel also warned various neighboring governments, as well as Hamas in Gaza, to keep protesters away from Israel’s borders.

In Morocco, mass protests took place earlier this week, with tens of thousands of protesters gathered outside the Israeli embassy, burning Israeli flags and chanting “A million martyrs are going to Jerusalem.” The violent protests required the rescue of an Israeli diplomat from Rabat.

In embattled Syria, planned demonstrations against Israel turned into protests against the government of President Bashar al-Assad.

Meanwhile, Palestinians in Hamas-backed Gaza fired another three mortars at Israel last Thursday, attacks that apparently never saw the light of international media.

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