Palestinians are marking “Nakba Day” with demonstrations across the West Bank and Gaza.
Nakba Day, or Catastrophe Day, commemorates the displacement of Palestinians from their homes following the creation of the State of Israel on May 15, 1948.
In the West Bank city of Ramallah, hundreds of people march from the grave of the late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat to a rally downtown, demanding the right to return to lost properties in what is now Israel.
Sirens also wail across the West Bank at noon in an expression of sadness.
Israeli troops along the Gaza border and throughout the West Bank were put on high alert ahead of the demonstrations planned for this afternoon, though a shaky ceasefire agreement struck between Jerusalem and the Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad terror groups in the Strip earlier this month — following a vicious round of fighting last week — will likely prevent a repeat of last year’s violence.
In what remains the deadliest day of fighting in Gaza since the 2014 war, 62 Palestinians were killed in the clashes on May 14, 2018, 53 of whom were later claimed as members of terror groups, including eight who died in a gun battle with IDF troops.
A senior US official who has been mediating the maritime border dispute between Israel and Lebanon has met with Lebanese officials for a second day, signaling a new push to resolve the matter.
Israel and Lebanon both claim some 860 square kilometers (330 square miles) of the Mediterranean Sea. Lebanon hopes to unleash offshore oil and gas production as it grapples with an economic crisis. Washington is mediating between the two countries, which have been officially at war since Israel’s creation in 1948.
The Kremlin expresses concern that tensions over Iran keep escalating despite assurances from US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo during a visit to Russia that Washington was not seeking war.
“So far we notice the continued escalation of tensions around this subject,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov says, a day after Pompeo met with President Vladimir Putin.
“We are saddened to see the decisions taken by the Iranian side,” Peskov says, while arguing that Washington has been provoking Iran.
Speaking in the Black Sea resort city of Sochi on Tuesday, Pompeo assured Russia that his country did not want war with Iran, despite a spike in tensions that has seen the Pentagon dispatch nuclear-capable bombers to the region.
But Peskov seeks to play down those statements.
“There were no assurances from Pompeo,” Putin’s spokesman tells reporters.
“And one can hardly talk about some sort of assurances. There is an obvious situation which unfortunately tends to escalate further.”