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Death of Palestinian Raises Tensions During anti-Israel Protests


Undercover Israeli policemen together with policemen detain a Palestinian during clashes in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Issawiya, May 13, 2011

Undercover Israeli policemen together with policemen detain a Palestinian during clashes in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Issawiya, May 13, 2011

Unrest in the Middle East is spreading to Israel and the Palestinian territories.

Palestinians clashed with Israeli police in East Jerusalem during a funeral for an Arab teenager killed in protests marking the Naqba, or "catastrophe" of Israel's creation in 1948. Palestinians threw stones and police responded with tear gas and rubber bullets.

Relatives of the dead teenager say he was shot by a Jewish settler during a protest on Friday but Israeli police says it's not clear who shot the youth.

Following the example of the Egyptian Revolution, the Palestinian protests were organized on Facebook. They call for three days of demonstrations, culminating with mass protests on Sunday, May 15, which is the annual Naqba Day.

Palestinian analyst Mohammed Dajani says the Naqba is an important commemoration because when Israel became a state, the Palestinians became homeless.

"They would like to commemorate the Naqba so that it will remain in the memory and support the right of the Palestinians to a Palestinian state," he said.

Fearing that the protests could turn violent, Israeli security forces are on high alert. Israel's Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch says police and soldiers have been ordered to act with maximum restraint in order to avoid an escalation.

"We are keeping a low profile," he told reporters. Aharonovitch said security forces would prevent any Palestinian attempt to disturb the peace or block roads, but he added that he hopes the demonstrations will pass quietly.

On Friday, thousands of Arabs in neighboring Jordan and Egypt demonstrated in support of the Palestinians.

The unrest comes as American Middle East envoy George Mitchell announced his resignation, ending more than two years of failed efforts to revive peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians. The fear is that in the absence of a peace process, there could be a new eruption of violence.

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