Thousands of Palestinians have staged a rally in the occupied territories to demand the right to return for refugees ahead of the 68th anniversary of Nakba Day (the Day of Catastrophe).
During the Thursday march in the southern Negev desert, the demonstrators carried Palestinian flags and held up signs demanding that Palestinian refugees be allowed to return to their homes, which they fled or were expelled from during the 1948 war.
Organizers said it was the first such a demonstration staged in the Negev.
The Israeli army had barred Palestinians from entering East al-Quds (Jerusalem) as of 1:00 a.m. on Wednesday local time (2200 GMT Tuesday) until midnight (2100 GMT) on Thursday.
The tough measures came as Israeli Culture and Sport Minister Miri Regev said that all cultural and sports facilities across the occupied lands, including Arabic institutions, must raise the Israeli flag on Nakba Day.
The Hebrew-language daily Yedioth Ahronoth reported that Regev had instructed the ministry’s Director General Yossi Sharabi to develop an initiative aimed at the action. Her proposal needs to be debated and approved by the Knesset (Israeli parliament).
Every year on May 15, Palestinians all over the world hold demonstrations to commemorate Nakba Day, which marks the anniversary of the forcible eviction of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians from their homeland by Israelis in 1948.
More than 760,000 Palestinians – now estimated to number nearly five million with their descendants – were driven out of their homes on May 14, 1948.
Since 1948, the Israeli regime has denied Palestinian refugees the right to return, despite United Nations resolutions and international law that uphold people’s right to return to their homelands.