Israel is preparing for Arab Land Day protests, deploying thousands of troops and police.
On Friday, Israeli Arabs and Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza are marking the annual protest against what they say are discriminatory Israeli land policies.
Supporters in neighbouring Arab countries have planned marches near Israeli borders in a solidarity event they call a «Global March to Jerusalem».
Organisers said the events would be nonviolent. Israeli Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch said on state radio: «The guidelines are to allow everyone to mark Land Day quietly … We will keep a low profile.»
Police spokesman Mickey Rosenfeld said thousands of officers were on the move throughout the country. The biggest deployments were near Arab towns in northern Israel and in Jerusalem.
He said police were in touch with leaders of Arab communities in Israel in an attempt to keep protests peaceful.
«We’re hoping there won’t be any major incidents,» he said. «If there are … obviously the police will respond and deal with them.»
Mahmoud Aloul, a Palestinian leader in the West Bank involved in preparations, said demonstrations were to be held in Jerusalem, the Qalandiya checkpoint – a frequent flashpoint of violence on the outskirts of Jerusalem – and in the West Bank town of Bethlehem. Other events were planned in Arab towns in northern Israel.
The Israeli military was also preparing for possible trouble along the borders with Lebanon and Syria in the north, Jordan to the east, and Egypt and the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip to the south.
In a statement, the Israeli military said it was «prepared for any eventuality and will do whatever is necessary to protect Israeli borders and residents.» It gave no further details.
Activists in Gaza planned to hold a demonstration about a kilometre from the Israeli border, but said they did not plan to move closer, minimising the chance of clashes.
Likewise, authorities in Lebanon and Jordan said they would keep demonstrators far from the Israeli border. Several thousand protesters were expected in each place. It was unclear whether protesters would gather in Syria, which is in the midst of a vicious civil war.
Palestinian organiser Mustafa Barghouti said activists from 82 countries were expected to participate.
In another development Thursday, a Palestinian prisoner held by Israel agreed to end her hunger strike after 43 days, her supporters said.
Hana Shalabi agreed to be expelled to the Gaza Strip for three years in exchange for halting the strike, said Qadoura Fares, who heads a group representing Palestinian prisoners.
Shalabi, 30, is a supporter of the militant Islamic Jihad group in the West Bank, which lies on the opposite side of Israel from Gaza.
She launched her strike on Feb. 16 to protest against «administrative detention,» an Israeli military policy that kept her jailed without formal charges.
The Israeli military confirmed the details of the deal, saying Shalabi agreed to «avoid any involvement in terror activity.» She is expected to be sent to Gaza in the coming days.