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Israel, Palestinians Clash as Arabs Stage ‘Nakba Day’ Protests

May 15 (Bloomberg) -- Palestinians clashed with Israeli security forces in Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza Strip in “Nakba Day” protests, while police are investigating whether a fatal traffic accident in Tel Aviv was a deliberate attack.

The violence occurred on the anniversary of what Palestinians call the Nakba, or catastrophe, referring to their displacement in 1948 as a result of the creation of the state of Israel. Israelis celebrated their 63rd Independence Day last week, corresponding with the date in the lunar Hebrew calendar.

Today “is an occasion wherein Palestinians reaffirm the adherence and commitment to their legitimate rights including the right of return and self-determination in an independent state on the lands occupied in 1967,” Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad said at a press conference in Ramallah today.

At least 30 Palestinians in the Gaza Strip were injured when Israeli tanks fired shells near demonstrators marching toward the border fence with Israel, Gaza medical official Adham Abu Selmaya told reporters. The army is investigating the incident, a military spokeswoman said, speaking anonymously according to regulation.

Israeli police arrested several Arab residents of east Jerusalem for stone-throwing and have boosted forces in the city and in Arab communities in northern Israel to deal with expected disturbances throughout the day. Israeli security forces clashed with Palestinians at several locations throughout the West Bank, with no serious injuries reported, the army said.

Arab ‘Extremists’

“I regret that there are extremists among Israeli Arabs and in neighboring countries who have turned the day on which the State of Israel was established, the day on which the Israeli democracy was established, into a day of incitement, violence and rage,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said to the Cabinet in Jerusalem, according to a statement posted on his office’s website.

A truck driver crashed into several vehicles in Tel Aviv, killing one person and injuring five, before he was arrested by police. The driver, a resident of the Arab town Kafr Kassem, said he lost control of the truck and the collision was an accident, police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said in a telephone interview.

“Police are looking into whether the accident was deliberate,” Rosenfeld said, adding that there were indications this was the case.

To contact the reporter on this story: Calev Ben-David at cbendavid@bloomberg.net; Jonathan Ferziger in Tel Aviv at jferziger@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Andrew J. Barden at barden@bloomberg.net.

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