All crossings between Israel and the West Bank have been closed until midnight

Israeli security forces have fired stun grenades and tear gas to disperse stone-throwing Palestinian protesters in the West Bank.

Activists have called for a “Global March to Jerusalem” on Land Day, which marks the 1976 killing of six Arabs protesting against land appropriation.

The Israeli army is also concerned Palestinian refugees in Lebanon, Jordan and Syria may try to cross into Israel.

Several protesters were killed in clashes with Israeli troops last year.

Hundreds of thousands of Palestinians fled or were displaced from their homes during the Arab-Israeli wars in 1948 and 1967.

The organisers of Friday’s protests at about a dozen locations in the West Bank, Jerusalem and Gaza had said they would be non-violent.

However, there were clashes at checkpoints in the West Bank to the north and south of Jerusalem. Stones were thrown at security forces, who responded by firing stun grenades and tear gas.

“We are determined to march together toward Jerusalem, and hopefully we will break through and reach it,” a masked youth calling himself Rimawi told the Reuters news agency at a protest in the city of Ramallah.

There were also minor disturbances within Jerusalem, with Reuters reporting that two men were carried away injured after scuffles at the Lions’ Gate, and that there were several arrests at the Damascus Gate.

In Bethlehem, around 100 people reportedly tried to stage a march, but were blocked by Palestinian police. Hamas security forces also prevented protesters reaching the Gaza Strip’s border with Israel.

Palestinian activists have called for a “Global March to Jerusalem” to protest against “the policies and practices of the racist Zionist state”.

“For 44 years this policy of colonialism, which has prolonged the occupation, has been the main source of violence in the region and the single most menacing threat to the two-state solution,” said the chief Palestinian peace negotiator, Saeb Erekat.

In anticipation of the unrest, the Israeli authorities closed all crossings with the West Bank until midnight, and said men younger than 40 could not to attend Friday prayers at Jerusalem’s al-Aqsa mosque.

The Israeli army is also concerned that Palestinian refugees and their supporters in Lebanon and Syria may try to cross into Israel, reports the BBC‘s Jon Donnison, who is on Israel’s northern border.

This would mimic two separate protests in May and June last year when dozens of people were killed in clashes with Israeli soldiers, he adds.

It is not clear whether the authorities in Syria and Lebanon will allow protesters to approach the borders. Israel accused Syria of encouraging last spring’s demonstrations to distract from the country’s own problems.

An Israeli army officer told the Reuters news agency that the ceasefire line with Syria in the Golan Heights had recently been fortified. A new fence had been built and land mines laid, he said.

—BBC

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