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A turbulent and deadly weekend has given considerable impetus to Palestinians' drive for statehood.

Emboldened by Arab uprisings across the region, young Palestinians triggered widespread clashes at several Israeli border posts Sunday, making this May 15 - the day Palestinians mourn as the catastrophe when their people fled from the nascent state of Israel - as a day unlike any other.

"There's never been a Nakba Day like this," said an experienced Palestinian observer, referring to the event by its Arabic name.

Israel's frontiers sizzled with confrontation as never before during peace time; from Qalandia refugee camp, north of Jerusalem, where a couple thousand very young people, including young women, attacked the Israeli checkpoint; to Gaza, where hundreds of Palestinians were shelled by Israeli tanks as they attempted to march on the Erez border crossing; to Lebanon, where Palestinian refugees stormed the Israeli border fence and as many as 10 people were shot dead.

Perhaps the biggest surprise was on the Golan Heights, where hundreds of Palestinian refugees from Syria cut their way through fences that mark the ceasefire line separating Israeli and Syrian forces. Several dozen made their way to the Druze town of Majdal Shams in the Israeli-occupied Golan. One infiltrator was killed and 30 wounded by Israeli fire.

"We are determined to defend our borders and our sovereignty," Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a televised address Sunday evening. "It questions the very existence of Israel."

Mr. Netanyahu has reason to be concerned. While the issue that has divided Israel and the Palestinian Authority to date has been the shape of a two-state solution based roughly on the border of 1967, Sunday's protests by the Palestinian refugees from what is now Israel go to the very existence of the Jewish state.

Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas replied that those protesters killed will not have died in vain.

"Their blood was spilled for the freedom of our Palestinian people and for its rights," Mr. Abbas said in a televised address. Ultimately, he said, "the will of the people is stronger than the power of the oppressive forces and the occupiers."

As many as 15 people were killed during the various actions, most of them in Lebanon or Syria, while one person was killed in Gaza.

As well, one Israeli was killed in Tel Aviv when a dump truck driven by an Arab Israeli plowed into a number of vehicles and pedestrians just after the morning rush hour. Police said they believe the incident was deliberate.

For many of the young people at the Qalandia checkpoint on the edge of Jerusalem, this was their first taste of teargas. "This is our intifada," said a young man of 16, referring to the uprisings of Palestinian populations of the past.

The youths cited the region-wide Arab popular uprisings as inspiration. "The Israelis have to realize they're not the strongest in the neighbourhood any more," another young man said. "We are no longer alone," he said, pointing to the incidents on the Syrian and Lebanese borders.

Many protesters also praised the recent reconciliation between the Palestinians' warring Hamas and Fatah factions.

Indeed, the two powerful Palestinian groups took a couple of giant steps forward over the weekend.

In the West Bank city of Nablus on Saturday, 600 Hamas and Fatah followers joined Palestinian businessman Munib Masri in celebrating the historic reconciliation. Followers of Hamas, led by Aziz Dweik, speaker of the Palestinian Legislative Council, joined hands with leaders of Fatah led by Nabil Shaath, head of the parties foreign affairs department, and posed for pictures.

As those people partied, negotiators of both sides met in Cairo to hammer out an agreement on an interim government that would take Palestinians to national elections next year.

While no agreement had been announced by late Sunday night, a senior Hamas official did make it clear that the current Palestinian prime minister, Salam Fayyad, would not be acceptable to Hamas.

Looking ahead, Hamas leaders have said they are prepared to accept a sovereign Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza with Jerusalem as its capital, but insist they will never accept Israel's right to exist.

Dr. Dweik, who led the Hamas affiliated Reform and Change list in the West Bank in the 2006 election, said he hoped the world would recognize whatever Palestinian government emerges from the talks and deal with it "according to its actions, not according to which factions are below the surface."

The popular speaker compared the situation to Israel's government and the many extreme factions that comprise its coalition. "The world deals with the government, not the parties," he said.

The most important thing for Palestinians, Dr. Dweik said, is to present a united front this September when asking the United Nations to recognize a Palestinian state.

Bonding between the two Palestinian sides remains the greatest hurdle still be overcome, he said.

This past weekend was a good start at achieving that.