The Associated Press
May 7, 2008 - 6:51pm

Israel last night kicked off week-long unprecedented celebrations to commemorate its creation 60 years ago on the land of Palestine.

The celebrations started hours after Israeli tanks and bulldozers rumbled into the southern Gaza Strip, while military jets struck a series of Palestinian targets. One Palestinian was killed and at least 14 were wounded in the fighting, according to witnesses.

The anniversary is also being observed with Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's fate under a cloud and the Jewish state still far from making peace with Arabs. Olmert, who has faced opposition calls to step down over fresh corruption allegations, marked the Israeli "Remembrance Day" with a call to "fight for the survival" of Israel.

Arabs mark Al Naqba

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"Our entire national existence, and the safety and well-being of Israeli citizens, depend upon our willingness to defend ourselves," Olmert said at a ceremony to remember the 22,437 soldiers killed in action since Israel was created in May 1948.

He insisted that Israel nevertheless seeks peace. "There is nothing we desire more than to end the conflict with our neighbours," he said at a separate ceremony for civilian victims of the Arab-Israeli conflict. Israeli security forces were on high alert amid concerns Palestinian fighters could launch attacks during the celebrations.

The highlight of the celebrations will be a conference next week, to be attended by US President George W. Bush, Quartet envoy Tony Blair, ex-Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev and others.

As Israel marks its anniversary on Thursday, Palestinians and Arabs commemorate six decades from Al Naqba, when Zionist militias forced around one million Palestinians from their homes.


American Task Force on Palestine - 1634 Eye St. NW, Suite 725, Washington DC 20006 - Telephone: 202-262-0017