In the Gaza Strip, thousands of Palestinians have gathered (photo, from aljazeera.net) in order to mark the 61st anniversary of the “Nakba” (catastrophe). It describes the dispersal of hundreds of thousands of refugees after the creation of Israel.
Palestinian flags and Hamas banners were waved by thousands of people in the Jabaliya refugee camp. Others held placards with the names of villages destroyed by Israeli forces during the 1948 war.
“We will return to Jaffa and to all our lands”, some of the crowd shouted, while others proclaimed: “We will not recognise Israel”.
After Friday prayers, supporters gathered and later, several hundred people walked to within 2km of the Israeli border.
The Palestinian people “will never give up the right of return” to their homes and land in Israel, Ahmad Bahar, a senior Hamas official, told the crowd.
A day before the Gaza demonstrations on Friday, similar ceremonies were held in cities across the West Bank. Demonstrators marched through cities holding Palestinian flags and images of Arab villages razed by Israeli forces.
The day difference shows the continuing divisions between the two main Palestinian factions.
The Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) was prevented from holding Nakba events on Thursday in Gaza by the Hamas, which seized power in the territory more than two years ago.
In June 2007, Hamas forced PLO supporters out of Gaza. Since then, the two factions have been in dispute.
In Ramallah, demonstrators waved banners reading, “The right of return is sacred”, and “Return, Jerusalem And Self-Determination: Our Struggle Will Continue” as they gathered at the tomb of Yasser Arafat, the late Palestinian leader.
More than 60 years ago, about 700,000 Palestinians fled or were driven out of their homes during the creation of the Israeli state.