Thursday, May 16, 2019

Thousands of Palestinians demonstrate to mark Nakba Day

Palestinians on Wednesday marked the 71st anniversary of their mass displacement during the 1948 war around Israel's creation with protests across the occupied West Bank and the Gaza Strip.
Thousands of people streamed to the Gaza-Israel frontier as Hamas announced a general strike, closing schools and public institutions to allow for a large turnout.
Palestinians have staged protests every Friday along the border fence demanding an end to an Israeli-Egyptian blockade and calling for the right to return to their ancestral lands in what is now Israel.
Israeli forces killed more than 60 Palestinians at last year's demonstration, which coincided with the controversial opening of the new US Embassy in contested Jerusalem.
At least 293 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli fire in Gaza since the protests began in March 2018.
This year's demonstration, however, comes two weeks after a cease-fire was reached to end a fierce two-day round of fighting. A Qatari envoy, who has been helping mediate the cease-fire, has urged Hamas to keep Wednesday's demonstration restrained.
Israeli forces fired tear gas, rubber bullets and live ammunition at demonstrators, witnesses said, with Gaza's health ministry reporting that at least 47 people were wounded.
The demonstrations were marking the Nakba, or catastrophe, in which hundreds of thousands of Palestinians fled or were forced from their homes during the war surrounding Israel's establishment.
Today, there are an estimated 5 million Palestinian refugees across the Middle East.
The fate of the refugees is one of the core issues of dispute between Israel and the Palestinians. Israel rejects demands for a mass return of refugees to long-lost homes, saying it would threaten the country's Jewish character.
In the occupied West Bank city of Ramallah, hundreds of people marched from the grave of the late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat to a rally downtown, demanding the right to return to lost properties in what is now Israel.
"We will return, no matter how long it takes" read one of the signs.
Sirens also wailed across the West Bank at noon, and smaller demonstrations took place, in expressions of sadness.

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