Border guards loyal to the Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas stand guard during a rally to mark Land Day in the Gaza Strip on March 30, 2017
Deir Hanna (Israel) (AFP) - Thousands of Arab Israelis and Palestinians gathered Thursday for annual demonstrations marking Land Day, which commemorates 1976 protests in which six people were killed by Israel.
A few thousand demonstrators raised the Palestinian flag and chanted slogans at a march in Deir Hanna in northern Israel.
Smaller protests occurred in Gaza and parts of the occupied West Bank, with clashes near Nablus.
The 1976 protest against Israeli plans to seize large sections of land in northern Israel was met with a violent police response.
Addressing the crowd in Deir Hanna, Israeli journalist Gideon Levy, a prominent advocate of Palestinian rights, said: "It is not easy to be a Palestinian in the West Bank, not easy being a Palestinian in Israel either.
"You do not have the same rights."
Samir Abu Hussein, the town's mayor, urged his fellow Arab Israelis "to struggle each day against the Zionist storm which wants to subjugate the Arabs with its racist policies".
Land Day itself has become a symbol of Palestinian suffering, according to Mohammad Barakeh, a former member of the Israeli parliament and an organiser of the demonstration.
"The march is a message to our people everywhere," he told AFP. "It represents a historical turning point."
Arab Israelis make up around 17.5 percent of the country's population and are descended from Palestinians who remained on their land after the creation of Israel in 1948.
They hold Israeli citizenship but most see themselves as Palestinians and complain of discrimination.
The Adalah NGO, which campaigns for the rights of Arabs in Israel, said in a statement on Thursday that Israeli authorities "persist in their discriminatory policies against Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel."
In January, a local resident and a policeman died during a raid on the Bedouin Arab village of Umm al-Hiran in southern Israel to demolish a number of homes.