U.S. warns citizens to avoid ‘Nakba’ protests


(JTA) — The U.S. embassy in Israel warned Americans to avoid demonstrations this weekend marking Nakba Day, when Palestinians and Israeli Arabs commemorate their losses in Israel’s Independence War.

"As always, please be aware of your surroundings and remember that protests intended to be peaceful can turn confrontational and possibly escalate into violence," said the notice sent May 12 by the embassy. "Avoid areas of demonstrations and maintain a high level of vigilance and situational awareness while traveling to mixed Jewish and Arab neighborhoods."

The notice listed planned demonstrations near Israeli Arab towns like such as Umm el-Fahm and Nazareth and mixed neighborhoods like Jaffa, as well as in the West Bank.

Tensions already were rising on Friday as the demonstrations were launched. Haaretz reported that police in Jerusalem had arrested 11 Palestinians.

Pro-Palestinian groups said dozens of protesters were injured, with three sustaining serious wounds.

One of these was an unnamed American professor who was part of a protest in Nabi Saleh near Bethlehem. He sustained head wounds suffered from a tear gas canister fired at close range, the groups said.

The word "Nakba" means "catastrophe" in Arabic. Palestinian commemorations of Nakba Day are pegged to May 14, the date on the secular calendar in 1948 when Israel declared independence.

Palestinians mark the day to commemorate the flight from the nascent state of hundreds of thousands of their forebears as a result of the war with the new Jewish state.

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