Ma'an News Agency
March 30, 2011 - 12:00am

Five hundred students were chased and beaten by government security forces during a Land Day protest in Gaza City on Wednesday, an organizer affiliated with the March 15 coalition told Ma'an.

Officers were said to have dispersed the gathered young people, who were calling for unity and a return to the Palestinian national project in Tayaran (Aviation) Street in the center of the city.

Activist Ihsan Abu Sharkh said the forces chased and beat demonstrators, spraying what appeared to be pepper spray at their eyes, and injuring at least one young man.

Hamas officials had earlier confirmed that one demonstration, joined by all factions, was given a permit to demonstrate on Land Day.

Teachers in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem devoted their first class Wednesday to the history of Land Day, and the Palestinian struggle to prevent land confiscations, as demonstrations swelled across Palestinian cities.

A protest march towards Beit El, an Israeli settlement in the central West Bank district of Ramallah and Al-Bireh, was blocked by Palestinian police on Ramallah's Nablus street, organizers said.

In Israel, strikes were declared in dozens of Palestinian towns and cities, with a central demonstration in the Galilee town of Arraba, and a second organized in the Negev town of Araqib.

While Palestinian protests in the West Bank and East Jerusalem focused on the continued confiscation of lands for illegal settlement expansion, and the continued denial of use and development rights for Palestinians on lands designated "Area C," in Gaza demonstrators called for the end of the Israeli siege, and the evacuation of forces from the militarized "no-go zone" which takes up swaths of land along the border region between Israel and Gaza.

In Israel, discriminatory land rights for for non-Jews, those who do not serve in the military, and development policies that favor Jewish Israelis took center stage.

The protests have their root in the commemoration of the death of six Palestinian citizens of Israel, who took part in a general strike in protest of an Israeli decision to confiscate privately owned Palestinian lands in 1976.

Large crowds gathered in Jenin, Nablus, Tulkarem and Ramallah, rallied by political factions and popular committees.

In some locations, the traditional city center for protests was given up in favor of demonstrations near settlements, or where the route of Israel's separation wall cuts into Palestinian lands.

In towns near Jenin and Tulkarem, groups organized large olive-sappling plants, with residents expected to come out in the hundreds to seed the earth.


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