Israel's neighbors prepared to usher in 'Nakba Day' with mass marches along the border with Israel Sunday. Meanwhile, in Israel, police prepared to deploy backup forces throughout the country with officers trained in riot-prevention.
Many residents of Arab countries in which anti-government protests abound have used social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook to call for a third intifada on May 15, the Palestinian day of mourning over the establishment of Israel.
In Lebanon, 500 buses have been enlisted to shuttle Palestinians from refugee camps throughout the country to its southern border with the Jewish state. Al-Akhbar reported that protest organizers had increased their order by 200 buses due to the abundance of participants.
Reports in Lebanon say the march will begin in the western city of Naqoura and head east towards Maroun al-Ras, one of the main battle areas of the Second Lebanon War.
'Nakba Day' events in Jaffa, Saturday (Photo: Yaron Brener)
In Egypt, protesters will gather at a bridge known as the Friendship Bridge in Ismailia and head towards the Rafah crossing, which connects Egypt to Gaza. Others plan to leave for the crossing from Cairo. Some say they intend to cross into the Palestinian enclave, but it remains unclear whether Egyptian troops will allow this.
In Jordan, Facebook-organized protesters say their aim is to come as close to the West Bank as possible, and in Syria demonstrators hope to reach the Quneitra crossing to the Golan Heights.
Settlers in the West Bank were also preparing Saturday, with the Samaria Setters' Committee saying it was planning to hand out Israeli flags at junctions.
"On Sunday we will proudly wave the Israeli flag everywhere in answer to the history that the Palestinian Authority and its PR agents on the Left are trying to create," says a letter by council chairman, Gershon Mesika.
Police will focus mainly on Jerusalem and the nearby checkpoints, for fear Palestinians from the West Bank will attempt to cross into the country. In the north, police forces will deploy at major junctions in order to prevent the blocking of roads and stone-throwing by protesters.
'Nakba Day' events in Israel are scheduled to kick off Sunday at 12 pm, when a siren lasting 63 seconds – one for each year since Israel declared independence in 1948 – will sound.
But Israel's Arabs had nothing special planned for Sunday, with many saying that the recently-passed 'Nakba bill' – which imposes sanctions on any authority that backs activities negating Israel's right to exist – has made them fearful of planning or participating in 'Nakba Day' events.
MK Ahmed Tibi expressed his dismay at this. "It's time you learned about us and showed us empathy as fellow victims," he said Saturday.
"In 1948 ethnic cleansing took place in which 532 Palestinian villages were destroyed or wiped off the map and hundreds of thousands were expelled. Why do you refuse to teach your children about the Nakba and the Palestinian narrative? You are either afraid or ashamed."
In Ramallah, a ceremony is scheduled to be held at the grave of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat. Ceremonies are also planned to take place in Hebron, Nablus, Bethlehem, Tulkarem, and Qalqilya. A soccer game has also been scheduled in east Jerusalem, with 17 teams participating.
A Palestinian security source told Ynet they are on high alert to counter riots, and coordinating with the IDF.
Meanwhile, Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh has called on Gaza's residents to participate in a special prayer service "for the easement of grief and ending of the occupation". A march has also been scheduled to depart from Beit Hanoun.
Others plan to march from Rafah in demand for the right of return to their lands. Organizers say the march will be peaceful, and that residents will attempt to pass through Erez crossing without use of violence.
Roee Nahmias, Omri Efraim, Hassan Shaalan, Ronen Medzini, Hanan Greenberg, and Elior Levy contributed to this report