GAZA CITY, Palestine (AA): Thousands of Palestinians began to converge on the Gaza-Israel buffer zone on Saturday to take part in mass rallies marking the first anniversary of anti-occupation protests.
The protests also commemorate the 43rd anniversary of the Land Day when six people were killed in 1976 during demonstrations against seizure of Arab land in Galilee.
Waving Palestinian flags, demonstrators chanted slogans for an end to the 12-year-long Israeli blockade on Gaza, according to an Anadolu Agency reporter in the area.
Meanwhile, Hamas chief Ismail Haniyeh and an Egyptian security delegation visited a protest spot east of Gaza City.
The delegation is currently in Gaza as part of a shuttle diplomacy to reach a truce deal between Gaza-based resistance factions and Israel.
In the occupied West Bank, clashes erupted between Palestinian protesters and Israeli forces during rallies marking the Land Day.
Israeli forces used live ammunition, rubber bullets and teargas to disperse Palestinian protesters in the cities of Ramallah, Al-Bireh and Nablus, according to Anadolu Agency reporters in the area.
Several protesters were reportedly injured during the violence.
On Friday, Palestinian resistance groups Hamas and Islamic Jihad warned Israel against attacking protesters during the planned demonstrations.
“Any Israeli assault on the marches will be met with an equal response,” the Islamic Jihad said following a meeting between group chief Jihad al-Nakhla and Hamas deputy leader Saleh al-Aarouri in Lebanese capital Beirut.
In the run-up to Saturday’s rallies, the Israeli army has deployed numerous tanks and armored vehicles along the buffer zone with the Gaza Strip.
On Thursday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reportedly instructed the army to prepare for the possibility of a “broad” campaign in Gaza.
Nearly 270 Palestinian demonstrators have been martyred by Israeli army gunfire since Palestinians began holding regular demonstrations along the Gaza-Israel buffer zone in March of last year.
Demonstrators demand the right of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes in historical Palestine from which they were driven in 1948 to make way for the new state of Israel.
They also demand an end to Israel’s 12-year blockade of the Gaza Strip, which has gutted the coastal enclave’s economy and deprived its roughly two million inhabitants of many basic commodities.