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Palestinians in Israel mark 73 years since Nakba, affirming right of return

As Israel celebrates independence day, Palestinian citizens participate in the annual March of Return
Palestinians demonstrate along the controversial separation barrier at the western entrance of the northern West Bank city of Tulkarem, marking the 72nd anniversary of the Nakba, 16 May 2020 (AFP)

As Israel celebrated its independence day on Thursday, hundreds of the country's Palestinian citizens marched to commemorate the anniversary of 1948's Nakba, in which some 800,000 Palestinians were driven from their homes to make way for the creation of the state of Israel. 

The event has come to define the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Armed clashes began in late 1947, after the UN passed a resolution dividing the land between Jews and Palestinians, then escalated in 1948, when the new Israeli state was proclaimed. 

Zionist armed militias forced Palestinians from their land amid the creation of Israel on 15 May.

Israel began celebrating its 73rd independence day on Wednesday evening, in accordance with the Hebrew calendar.

Coinciding with the celebrations, Palestinian citizens of Israel, whose families were uprooted in the 1948 war, visited several destroyed towns and villages that once housed their ancestors, reiterating, as they have done for decades, their desire to return. 

The Association for the Defence of the Rights of the Displaced (ADRID), the organiser of the annual March of Return, which first started 24 years ago, called people on Thursday to participate in online demonstrations and activities due to the Covid-19 restrictions.

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But many in-person demonstrations went ahead regardless.

Palestinians walked to Damon, a village near Acre on the Mediterranean coast that was destroyed in 1948, Wafa reported, raising Palestinian flags and giving speeches near a well that has remained intact.

Demonstrations also took place in Umm az-Zinat, Saffuriya, al-Bassa, Lajjun and Malul, former Palestinian towns across the country that now lie beneath Israeli farm settlements.

Palestinians inside Israel raised placards bearing the slogan “Their independence day is our Nakba day,” and performed cultural activities such as the storied Dabke dance.

Tarek Shabayteh, whose family are from the town of Hittin, near Nazareth, told Arab48: “Hittin has been subjected to harm and vandalism since the Nakba, and the preservation of Hittin mosque was a great challenge… in addition to the long struggles to preserve the village cemetery.”

ADRID called on Palestinians inside Israel to display the name of their families' destroyed villages and to raise Palestinian flags on rooftops, terraces and balconies.

"Let everyone know that there is no substitute for the legitimate, human and legal right of return, which was guaranteed by the international legal bodies, especially Resolution 194 issued by the United Nations," ADRID said in a statement, "and to prove to the whole world that the Palestinian people refuse to forget and give up the right of return."