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Palestinians Mark Israel's Creation with Protests

Palestinians held protest rallies today to mark the anniversary of Israel's creation 57-years ago. Israel described the observances as "discouraging."

Sirens wailed in the West Bank and Gaza Strip as Palestinians marked what they call the "Nakba" or "catastrophe" of Israel's creation in 1948.

Traffic came to a standstill and people stopped and observed two-minutes of silence, in solidarity with the 700,000 Palestinians who lost their homes and became refugees. The sirens are reminiscent of observances in Israel marking Holocaust Remembrance Day.

Thousands of Palestinians held protest marches, demanding that refugees be allowed to return to their homes in Israel.

"We are looking forward to see that the world would support the Palestinians to achieve their national rights and to have their independent state on the 1967 borders," said Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmed Qureia.

In a speech to the Palestinian parliament, Mr. Qureia said, "Jerusalem is under occupation, Jewish settlements are expanding daily and the hopes for peace are faltering."

But Israel's Deputy Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said peace is faltering because of observances like the Nakba.

"The very fact that the Palestinians celebrate the 15th of May, which was the day of the proclamation of the state of Israel, as the day of disaster is very discouraging because it shows a state of mind still disposed to looking at the state of Israel as an obstacle that must be removed, rather than a reality that must be reconciled with," he said.

Mr. Olmert said he hopes the Palestinians change their attitude, and the sooner the better.