Elements in West Bank, Gaza coordinate mass processions to mark day of mourning over Israel's inception. Protest organizers urge mass street presence, say will 'peacefully march to demand our natural right to return'
The Palestinians are preparing for "Nakba Day" – text messages were sent to tens of thousands of cellular subscribers in the West Bank and east Jerusalem, calling them to take part in the events marking the Palestinian day of mourning over Israel's inception
and to ignite a third Intifada.
Police intelligence suggests that the Palestinians intend on holding several prequel events on Friday and Saturday; and though the police believe chances of events escalating into riots are low, reinforced police and Border Guard forces will deploy in east Jerusalem, the Old City and Temple Mount plaza, to maintain order.
Security forces on high alert ahead of 'Nakba Day' / Omri Efraim
Defense establishment reinforces troops deployment in Jerusalem, West Bank ahead of weekend preceding Palestinian day of mourning over Israel's inception
The main concern is that local protests will prompt violent clashes and mass rioting. As part of security measures ahead of Sunday the police announced that it will restrict the entrance to Temple Mount on Friday to male worshippers over the age of 45, carrying Israeli IDs.
In response to "Nakba Day" events, the Shomron Settlers' Committee said its activists are planning to distribute Israeli flags on Sunday at major intersections throughout the country.
A pamphlet authored by Shomron Regional Council head Gershon Mesika read: "On Sunday we will proudly wave the flag of Israel everywhere, as a response to the hysteria promoted by the Palestinian Authority and its public relations proxies in the radical Left."
'Demand our natural right'
Meanwhile, Palestinians continued their preparations ahead of "Nakba Day," set for Sunday. On Friday, Palestinians will mark "the calling to the flag day" – a prequel event to "Nakba Day."
Processions will take place throughout the West Bank, leaving from numerous mosques after Friday's prayers are concluded.
Processions are also set to be held in Hebron, Nablus, Ramallah, Bethlehem, Tulkarem and Qalqilya. Another procession is slated to leave from al-Aqsa Mosque.
Procession to start in Gaza; end in Haifa, Jaffa (Photo: AP)
According to the text messages, some of the activities planned for Friday are still kept secret, in order to prevent Israel from thwarting them.
Also on Thursday, the organizers of the third intifada initiative in the West Bank and the "return procession" in the Gaza Strip published flyers detailing the guidelines and goals of Sunday's events.
The flyers explained that the aim of the processions is "to demand our natural right to return to our land and implement UN resolutions."
The flyer laid blame on the United Nations, claiming it shared a large part of the responsibility for the Palestinians' condition and accusing them of keeping silent in the face of crimes committed against the Palestinian people. With the same breath, the flyer urged UN institutions and international organizations to protect the marchers from Israeli aggression.
Egyptians send message to Israel on YouTube
The authors of the flyer stressed that the processions will be nonviolent, but also warned Israel against cracking down on the protesters.
The organizers of the "return procession" said they have completed all the necessary preparations ahead of Sunday's march in the Gaza Strip. In a conversation with Ynet, Ahmad Najar, one of the procession's organizers, said he was optimistic vis-à-vis the march's chances of success.
"I foresee some quarter of a million people participating in Sunday's march from Gaza City toward Beit Hanoun (Erez Crossing)," he said.
Bethlehem prepares for procession (Photo: Reuters)
Najar noted that participants will not carry weapons: "This is a peace march, and we are only demanding one thing – our natural right to return to our cities in Haifa and Jaffa; we are not interested in clashing with anyone.
"We have one goal – to continue to march and pass through the border crossing back to our lands peacefully," he said.
According to Najar, "Even if they use force against us, or shoot at us – we will prove that we are nonviolent and unarmed and will continue to march toward the cities from which we were exiled."
Sympathy protest in Lebanon (Photo: Reuters)
A statement published by the organizers of the "return procession" noted that "the event will begin on May 15 and end in Jaffa, Haifa, Lod, Ramle and Ashkelon." However, the statement noted that "unexpected developments on the ground will be taken into consideration according to Israel's response, while the first and last word will remain the will of the Palestinian people."
According to the organizers, the event will consist of four stages – the first is a "sit-down strike" that will begin on Sunday, during which Palestinian refugees from Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, Egypt, the West Bank and Gaza will gather in locations nearest to the border with Israel. These strikes will continue as long as necessary – and may last up to several weeks and even months.
The second phase is dubbed "the advance," in which refugees will proceed peacefully toward the border, as much as they are allowed. In the third phase, referred to as "crossing," the refugees will cross the border and respond in restraint to any attempt to crack-down on the procession.
The fourth and final stage will begin when each refugee reaches their original place of residence, or the nearest location to it, at which time a second sit-down strike resume, until they are allowed to return to their plot of land.
A Palestinian source affiliated to the security apparatus confirmed on Thursday that Palestinian senior officials met earlier in the day to discuss the security deployment ahead of the "Nakba Day" events.
According to the source, the officials instructed to allow the processions to take place, but said they will prevent protesters from reaching locations bordering with Israel, whether these are road blocks, settlements or holy sites that are in proximity to the Palestinian Authority.
The source further noted that no unusual events are expected to take place during the processions.
Hassan Shaalan, Omri Efraim and Roi Kais contributed to this report