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Protests to mark founding of Israel

Backdropped by the Dome of the Rock, Israeli police officers detain a masked Palestinian protester during clashes in east Jerusalem on Saturday. (Associated Press)
Backdropped by the Dome of the Rock, Israeli police officers detain a masked Palestinian protester during clashes in east Jerusalem on Saturday. (Associated Press)

Palestinian boy’s death heightens tensions

JERUSALEM – A Palestinian teen died Saturday after being shot and wounded near a Jewish settler enclave in east Jerusalem, a hospital official and a local activist said, as new clashes erupted in the disputed city ahead of Palestinian commemoration of their uprooting more than six decades ago.

The clashes raised concerns of increased violence on the eve of the annual Palestinian day of mourning over Israel’s founding, which is marked by protest marches across the West Bank and Gaza.

The Palestinians call the May 15, 1948, creation of Israel the “Nakba,” Arabic for catastrophe.

During the 1948 Mideast war over Israel’s creation, hundreds of thousands of Palestinians fled or were driven out, losing homes and land. The dispute over the fate of the Palestinian refugees and their descendants, now numbering several million people, remains at the core of the Arab-Israeli conflict.

Milad Ayyash, 17, died in a hospital Saturday after suffering a gunshot wound in the neighborhood of Silwan on Friday, according to Jerusalem police spokesman Shmuel Ben Ruby.

As Ayyash’s funeral got under way Saturday, more confrontations erupted in east Jerusalem between stone-throwing Palestinians and Israeli border police who fired tear gas, witnesses said.

Palestinians also planned marches in east Jerusalem today to mark the Nakba. Ben Ruby said police were increasing their presence in east Jerusalem, in anticipation of possible violence.

Elsewhere in the region:

• Syria: Hundreds of Syrians flee to neighboring Lebanon to escape a violent crackdown against an anti-government uprising that has claimed the lives of more than 800 civilians, Lebanese security officials and a leading human rights group say. President Bashar Assad, meanwhile, reportedly sets up a committee to lead a dialogue with the opposition, the latest offer by the regime as it struggles to end the unrest threatening his family’s 40-year-old dynasty. Protesters have been taking to the streets in many cities for the past two months to try to force Assad to introduce reforms or resign. The government has responded by sending the army onto the streets to counter the demonstrators.

• Libya: Mourners vow revenge and rattle off heavy gunfire in a Tripoli cemetery as they bury nine men they say were Muslim clerics and medics killed in a NATO airstrike in mostly rebel-held eastern Libya. The Libyan government gives one account of why the men had traveled from the capital to the eastern front; a cleric at the funeral who says he witnessed the attack in the oil town of Brega gives a different version. NATO has been intensifying airstrikes against Gadhafi’s troops in several areas of Libya in a bid to weaken his brutal crackdown against a rebel uprising. The sound of another apparent NATO airstrike is heard in Tripoli on Saturday night, with Libyan state TV saying it targeted a site at the Bab al-Aziziya military base that includes Gadhafi’s residence.

• Yemen: Gunmen kill six soldiers and wound a seventh in a central province, a Yemeni security official says. Activists say police clash with protesters in the southern city of Taiz, injuring 15 during a rally calling for President Ali Abdullah Saleh’s ouster. The official says the soldiers are attacked at a checkpoint in the town of Radda in Bayda province, and the assailants flee.

• Bahrain: An envoy for Bahrain’s rulers says they hope to pursue dialogue with opposition groups after emergency laws are removed next month. Abdulaziz bin Mubarak Al Khalifa says the planned June 1 lifting of the measures – which give wide powers to the military – offer a chance for talks with Shiite-led protesters in the Gulf kingdom, home to the U.S. Navy’s 5th Fleet.

• Tunisia: Protesters blockade employees inside the offices of Tunisia’s largest natural gas producer, Britain’s BG Group, and block factory operations before being cleared out, the company says.

A weeks-long standoff over jobs at BG has highlighted the uncertainty about Tunisia’s long-stable and prosperous economy four months after protests brought down the country’s longtime president and prompted anti-government protests around the Arab world.


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