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Israeli soldiers clash with protesters as Palestinians and Arabs mark 'Land Day'

Israel heightened security ahead of planned Arab protests on Friday, deploying thousands of troops and police across the country, as well as to the West Bank and Gaza, in anticipation of violence.

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Palestinian schoolgirls walk past Israeli border policemen standing guard outside a Palestinian house in the centre of Hebron in the occupied West Bank on March 29, 2012 after dozens of Jewish settlers took over the Palestinian property overnight, claiming they have legal ownership. (MENAHEM KAHANA/AFP/Getty Images)

After heightening security ahead of planned Arab protests today, Israeli forces clashed with Palestinians, firing tear gas, rubber bullets, and stun grenades, according to MSNBC.

Israeli Arabs and Palestinians are marking "Land Day" on the anniversary of the 1976 death of six Israeli Arabs, the Associated Press reported. The Arabs were killed by Israeli police in a protest against government confiscation of Arab-owned land, according to Bloomberg.

Reuters wrote that Israeli forces fired live ammunition at protesters in Gaza, and one man was seriously wounded.

In Jerusalem, clashes erupted at checkpoints around the city, and witnesses said gates to the old also saw disturbances. Two men were seen being carried away injured after Lions' Gate. Haaretz reported that Palestinians threw rocks at soldiers, starting the clashes. 

Supporters of the annual protest in neighboring Arab countries were to march near Israel's borders in a solidarity event they call a "Global March to Jerusalem." Organizers said this year's events would be nonviolent, but last year's Land Day turned deadly: At least 15 people were killed in clashes with Israeli soldiers when they tried to cross the Syrian and Lebanese borders with Israel.

The Detroit Free Press quoted Michael Rubin, a former Defense Department adviser under President George W. Bush, as saying march was part of an effort "to delegitimize Israel and its duty to protect its own borders. This is designed to start crises not resolve them."

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Bloomberg quoted a police spokesman, Micky Rosenfeld, as saying that police would also be deployed to assist the army should there be any trouble.

Israeli Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch officers from the national police force would be spread out in potentially explosive areas Friday but would not enter Arab villages unless needed.

"The guidelines are to allow everyone to mark Land Day quietly ... We will keep a low profile," he told Israel Radio.

The AP cited Mahmoud Aloul, a Palestinian leader in the West Bank, as saying protests were to be held in Jerusalem, the Qalandiya checkpoint — a frequent flash point of violence on the outskirts of Jerusalem — and in the West Bank town of Bethlehem.

Other events were planned in Arab towns in northern Israel.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/middle-east/israel-and-palestine/120330/israel-jerusalem-arabs-protest-gaza