Israel soldiers, Palestinians clash on 'Nakba' day

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Palestinian protesters carry parts of a broken mirror during clashes with Israeli forces in the West Bank village of Kfar Qaddum on May 15, 2015

Palestinian protesters carry parts of a broken mirror during clashes with Israeli forces in the West Bank village of Kfar Qaddum on May 15, 2015 (AFP Photo/Jaafar Ashtiyeh )

Nablus (Palestinian Territories) (AFP) - Israeli soldiers fired tear gas, rubber and live bullets at Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip on Friday, wounding at least 21 people, medics and security sources said.

Clashes took place near Ramallah and farther north in Nablus, after a new Israeli cabinet took office and as Palestinians marked 67 years since the "Nakba", or "catastrophe" that befell them when Israel was established in 1948.

At a demonstration outside Ofer military prison near the West Bank administrative centre of Ramallah, dozens of protesters stoned soldiers who responded with tear gas and rubber bullets, an AFP correspondent said.

Medics said seven Palestinians were wounded.

In separate clashes in the northern West Bank city of Nablus, rubber bullets and live fire by soldiers wounded at least 10 Palestinians, security sources and witnesses said.

The Israeli army confirmed the clashes, but denied that live rounds were fired.

More than 1,000 settlers from nearby Jewish settlements were bused into the city to visit Joseph's Tomb early in the day, and soldiers blocked off roads leading to the pilgrimage site, Palestinian witnesses and security sources said.

Palestinians protested, some throwing stones, before clashes with the army erupted.

A spokeswoman for the military said soldiers had "escorted" up to 3,000 Jewish visitors to the tomb since Wednesday evening, and that a crowd of some 200 Palestinians had approached the area throwing stones and burning tyres.

Soldiers used "riot dispersal" means, she said.

- Rallies in Gaza -

In Gaza, which is still recovering nine months after last summer's war between Israel and de facto rulers Hamas, Israeli troops on the border fired live rounds at Nakba Day protesters, wounding four, the enclave's interior ministry medical spokesperson said.

Three demonstrators were hit at a demonstration staged by dozens of people near the border fence east of Gaza City, and a fourth was shot at a similar protest near Khan Yunis in the south, Ashraf al-Qudra said.

The Israeli army confirmed it had fired at the "lower extremities" of five people who approached the border fence, despite warnings not to come any closer.

Under Israel's blockade of the coastal territory, Gaza residents are not allowed within 100 metres (yards) of the border fence on foot, or 300 metres in a vehicle.

Israeli soldiers often fire at Palestinians who stray closer.

The protests were significantly smaller than the main demonstration in Gaza City, which was attended by 2,000 people, an AFP correspondent said.

At the rally, a Hamas speaker called for "continuing the resistance against the enemy Israel, until we liberate Palestine".

Israel and Hamas fought a 50-day war in July and August last year that killed about 2,200 Palestinians and 73 people on the Israeli side.

After Israel's establishment in 1948, more than 760,000 Palestinians -- estimated today to number around 5.5 million with their descendants -- fled or were driven from their homes, with the c marked every May 15.

For the Palestinians, the right to return to homes they fled or were forced out of is a prerequisite for any peace agreement with Israel, but it is a demand the Jewish state has rejected out of hand.

Israel on Thursday formed a new rightwing government headed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Palestinian officials have said the new lineup pushes the prospects of peace farther away than ever.

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