A turnout of some 50,000 Palestinian refugees at the Israel-Lebanon border exceeded organizers' expectations and spurred calls for a peaceful 'third intifada.' But it is too soon to tell whether a fresh mass uprising will gain traction.
Maroun er Ras, Lebanon
At least six people were killed and scores wounded Sunday when Israeli troops opened fire on a massive crowd of Palestinian refugees who gathered on Lebanon’s southern border with Israel to demand a return to the homes they were forced to leave 63 years ago.
Another four Palestinians were reportedly killed when they infiltrated the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights from Syria during another demonstration to mark the anniversary of the "nakba," or "catastrophe," as many Palestinians call the day Israel was founded in 1948.
Security on both sides of the Lebanon-Israel border was tight as an estimated 50,000 Palestinians were bussed from refugee camps all over Lebanon to the tiny hill village of Maroun er Ras which overlooks the border with Israel.
The huge turnout defied the expectations of the organizers, who had predicted some 20,000, and spurred calls for a peaceful “third intifada.” But it is too soon to tell whether a fresh mass uprising will gain traction.
“This is a peaceful message to Israel and the world, God willing, this will be the beginning of a peaceful third intifada,” says Mahmoud Zeidan, a Palestinian organizer from the Ain al-Hilweh camp in the southern Lebanese town of Sidon.
With the narrow winding road leading to Maroun er Ras blocked by parked buses, entire families – from toddlers to stooped and wrinkled old men – began climbing the steep northern slopes of the hill to reach the village. Colorfully dressed Palestinians steadily walked up the verdant flower-speckled hillside in narrow winding columns, red, green and black Palestinian flags fluttering in the spring breeze.
The atmosphere on the climb up the hill to Maroun er Ras and the view of the border was cheerful and friendly, almost like a picnic outing. But on the southern side of the hill overlooking the border, the situation quickly grew tense.