Israel is tightening security and closing off the occupied West Bank as Palestinians and their supporters prepare for what are expected to be mass Land Day demonstrations. Dozens of marches are being held to condemn and draw attention to Israel’s land policies as part of an annual day of demonstration to mark the anniversary of the killing of six Arabs who were demonstrating against land appropriation in 1976.
“For 44 years this policy of colonialism, which has prolonged the occupation, has been the main source of violence in the region and the single most menacing threat to the two-state solution,” chief Palestinian peace negotiator Saeb Erekat was quoted as saying by the BBC.
Protests are expected to be held by Israeli Arabs and Palestinians in the West Bank. There are also protests planned in neighbouring countries along the Israeli border. Israel says its concerned that Palestinian refugees in Lebanon, Syria and Jordan will try to cross over into Israeli territory, although it’s unclear whether authorities in those countries will allow that to happen.
Crossings between Israel and the West Bank have been shut down to everyone except those carrying aid and medical supplies, and Israeli settlers that live in the occupied territory. Men younger than 40 have also been banned from praying at the Al-Aqsa Mosque, Islam’s third holiest shrine and a contentious site located in East Jerusalem.
Last year, on Land Day, protests turned deadly as several demonstrators were killed in clashes with Israeli forces. Organizers say the protests will be peaceful.