World, Middle East

Palestinians mark 68th ‘Nakba Day'

The ‘Nakba’ refers to mass expulsion of Palestinians from their homeland in 1948 to make way for new state of Israel

15.05.2016 - Update : 16.05.2016
Palestinians mark 68th ‘Nakba Day' Palestinian boy holds a key maket during a ceremony marking the 68th anniversary of Nakba, also known as Day of the Catastrophe, in Gaza City, Gaza, on May 15, 2016. (Ali Jadallah - Anadolu Agency)

By Anees Bargouthi

RAMALLAH, Palestine

Thousands of Palestinians took to the streets across the Israeli-occupied West Bank on Sunday to mark the passage of 68 years since the "Nakba" ("catastrophe" in Arabic), which coincided with the establishment of the state of Israel.

In Ramallah, thousands of Palestinians waving Palestinian and black flags marched from the tomb of iconic leader Yasser Arafat to Arafat Square in the city center.

As they marched across the city, protesters read out the names of Palestinian villages razed decades ago to make way for the new state of Israel.

Two rallies were held in the East Jerusalem districts of Jabl al-Mukaber and Bab al-Amoud to mark the occasion, where protestors chanted, "No compromise on the right of return!"

"For 68 years, we have struggled against the Israeli occupation," Omar Assaf, a member of a Palestinian commission for commemorating Nakba Day, told Anadolu Agency.

He said Palestinians were prepared to make further sacrifices in order to eventually recover their land.

"Every day brings us closer to our return to our homeland," he said.

Palestinians use the word "Nakba" to refer to the destruction of hundreds of villages in historical Palestine -- and the expulsion of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians from their land by armed Zionist gangs --to make way for the new state of Israel in 1948.

The Israel-Palestine conflict began in 1917 when the British government, in the now-famous "Balfour Declaration," called for "the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people".

In 1948, a new state -- "Israel" -- was established inside historical Palestine.

Around 15,000 Palestinians were killed, some 800,000 displaced, and 531 Arab villages destroyed in attacks by armed Jewish groups at the time.

The Palestinian diaspora has since become one of the largest in the world. Palestinian refugees are now scattered across Jordan, Lebanon, Syria and other countries, while many have since settled in refugee camps in the Palestine's West Bank and Gaza Strip.

According to the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), there are currently more than 5 million registered Palestinian refugees.

For many Palestinians, the right to return to their homes in historical Palestine remains a key demand.

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