Israeli security forces are on high alert Sunday ahead of events marking 'Nakba Day.' Police raised its alertness level and the Israel Defense Forces are prepared to face riots across the border, but security forces still estimate that the Palestinians have an interest in maintaining calm.
Meanwhile, some Arab-Israelis are reluctant to mark 'Nakba Day' over a recently passed Knesset bill.
Many social and religious groups within the Arab sector decided not to hold rallies or demonstrations this year, saving a few small events. "The Lieberman bill gave us the courage to hold our activities on Independence Day and not on Nakba Day," Samikh Abu Mouch told Ynet.
Roughly two months ago, the Knesset passed the "Nakba bill" which enables the state to withdraw government funding from various local councils and organizations which undermine the State of Israel's core values as a Jewish and democratic state by marking Independence Day as a day of mourning.
Friday demonstration in Jerusalem (Photo: Reuters)
Ahmed Mahmid from Umm al-Fahm said: "I am very sad there are no demonstrations in Umm al-Fahm. Apparently the Lieberman bill succeeded in shutting us up and this poses danger."
A Tira resident told Ynet, "Every year we demonstrate on Nakba Day but this time we shall not because of the new Nakba bill. It's not over fear, but we are certain that after such a demonstration police will arrest the organizers and indictments could be filed against us. It's better not to take responsibility for such steps."
MK Ahmad Tibi said: "The time has come that you learn about us and show empathy to the victim's victim. In 1948, ethnic cleansing was carried out and wiped out 532 Palestinian villages. Hundreds of thousands were expelled. Why do you refuse to teach your children about the Nakba and the Palestinian narrative? You're either afraid or ashamed. Nakba Day rallies are a natural expression basing a Palestinian narrative which is gaining force."
MK Afu Aghbaria (Hadash) sent a letter to Internal Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch and warned against provocations on Nakba Day. Police presence in Arab villages constitutes provocation, he claimed.
Preparations in West Bank, Gaza
Meanwhile, the West Bank and Gaza Strip are gearing up towards 'Nakba Day' events. Mass processions are scheduled to be held simultaneously in Ramallah, Hebron, Nablus, Bethlehem, Tulkarem and Qalqilya. A 63-second siren will be sounded at 12 pm to mark the number of years that have passed since Israel declared independence in 1948.
In Ramallah a ceremony is scheduled to take place near Yasser Arafat's grave. A procession will then head towards the Qalandiya checkpoint in north Jerusalem. The Palestinian Authority will also hold a soccer tournament at the al-Ram stadium north of Jerusalem.
Officers and rioters in east Jerusalem (Photo: Noam Moskowitz)
A Palestinian security source told Ynet that Palestinian police has been on high alert since Friday. Palestinian security forces will be deployed in all areas where clashes between protestors and IDF forces are likely to take place. The source noted there may be minor riots near checkpoints.
The source added the Palestinian security forces and the IDF are fully coordinated. Defense Minister Ehud Barak has ordered closure on the West Bank for 24 hours. The IDF is preparing for all possible scenarios.
Riots in Qalandiya checkpoint (Archive photo: AP)
Preparations for 'Nakba Day' are also underway in the Gaza Strip. Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh has called Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank to take part in a special prayer to "ease the sorrow and end the occupation."
A procession is also slated to leave Beit Hanoun. Organizers have asked participants to carry only flags of Palestine and not flags of the various factions to demonstrate Palestinian unity.
'March of return'
Another procession is also slated to leave Rafah. Thousands of people are also scheduled to take part in the "procession of return" marching as refugees seeking to return to their lands. The organizers said they plan on trying to cross the Erez crossing, but will avoid violence.
They also stressed that the refugee march should not be linked to the Arab-Israeli conflict. "Our goal is not ideological: We want to return to our homes. We have no interest in confronting the Israeli forces."
They are planning to set up tents 500 meters from the border and waive signs with the names of the towns and villages they left in 1948.
Hassan Shaalan, Hanan Greenberg, Ronen Medzini and Elior Levy contributed to this report
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