Palestinians on Sunday marked the 68th anniversary of Nakba (Catastrophe), the day when the Zionists displaced Palestinians of their homeland, with renewed calls for resistance against the Israeli regime.
Hamas and Islamic Jihad resistance movements issued a joint press statement ahead of Nakba Day urging young Palestinians activate the intifada (uprising) in the West Bank and Gaza border areas.
The two movements declared May 15, which marks the 68th Nakba anniversary, a day of anger against the Israeli occupation and called upon the Palestinian young people to clash with its troops in all occupied territories. “Let May 15 be a day of marching and returning to our villages and areas and a day of confrontation between the Palestinian youths and the occupation in all flashpoint areas,” a spokesman for the coalition told a news conference in Gaza.
In response to the call several demonstrations took place across West Bank and Gaza Strip, with Palestinians demanding their right of return.
As a symbolic demonstration of this right, “Return Train” traveled through part of the occupied West Bank district of Beit Lahm (Bethlehem).
The train embarked from al-Duheisha refugee camp at 11 a.m., heading towards Beit Lahm, where it drove past the separation wall. Organizers of the demonstration chanted the names of villages whose inhabitants were forcibly expelled or massacred in 1948.
Several hundred Palestinians, many of them children, marched alongside the train waving Palestinian flags.
Near the separation wall, Israeli occupation forces fired two rounds of tear gas at demonstrators.
Meanwhile in Gaza, Palestinians took to streets in several areas across the city. Thousands of Palestinians took part Sunday in a rally in Gaza City organized by various political factions to commemorate the 68th anniversary of the Nakba, or catastrophe, voicing renewed demands that Palestinians to return to the cities, villages, and lands that they were forced to leave in 1948 during the creation of the Israeli entity.
Waving Palestine flags, the participants marched from the Unknown Soldier Square to the headquarters of the United Nations.
“Sixty-eight years have passed since the Nakba and our people have never forgotten their homeland, Palestine. We will return,” Fatah member Zakariyya al-Agha said during the rally.
“Let the whole world know that our people will never accept an alternative to this homeland […] no matter how far the distances or how high the occupier’s walls are,” al-Agha said.
He added that all Palestinian factions should close ranks and maintain national unity because “(unity) is the bridge to Palestine and the line of defense in the face of all challenges and obstacles.”
Senior leader of the PLO’s main leftist faction the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) Jamil Mizhir echoed al-Agha’s comments, calling for national unity and restructuring the PLO: “Let us hold fast to our land, to the right of return, and to resistance — one generation after the other. We must take advantage of this memory to end rivalries.”
Hamas also called for national unity on the occasion of the Nakba, underlining that “the rights of return, freedom of prisoners, statehood, and self-determination are inalienable Palestinian rights,” in a statement released on Saturday by the chairman of Hamas’ political bureau, Khaled Mishaal.
The United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) says some 750,000 Palestinians were expelled from their lands in 1948 and were scattered across refugee camps in the occupied West Bank, the Gaza Strip, Jordan, Lebanon, and Syria. The number of refugees today is well above five million.
Today, 68 years ago, the Israeli entity was created on the Palestinian peoples’ home. The anniversary falls after months of an escalation in violence and arrests of Palestinians, ever-expanding Zionist settlements in the West Bank and the occupied Palestinian capital of al Quds (Jerusalem).
It is estimated that there are approximately 600,000 Zionist settlers living in the occupied West Bank.
For the Palestinians it is remembered as Yawm an-Nakba, meaning “Day of the Catastrophe” or just Nakba Day. During the 1948 Palestine War, an estimated 700,000 Palestinians fled or were Expelled, and Hundreds of Palestinian towns and villages were depopulated and destroyed. These refugees and their descendants number several million people today, divided between Jordan (2 million), Lebanon (427,057), Syria (477,700), the West Bank (788,108) and the Gaza Strip (1.1 million), with at least another quarter of a million internally displaced Palestinians inside the Israeli entity and many more around the world. Later, a series of laws passed by the first Israeli regime prevented them from returning to their homes, or claiming their property. They, along with many of their descendants remain refugees. The expulsion of the Palestinians has since been described by some historians as ethnic cleansing.