Palestinians call for refugee return on ‘Nakba’ anniversary

Published May 15, 2024
Palestinian journalist Sami Shehada, whose leg was amputated following an injury while covering Israel’s military offensive in Nuseirat in April, resumes his duties for Turkish state broadcaster TRT in Deir Al Balah.—Reuters
Palestinian journalist Sami Shehada, whose leg was amputated following an injury while covering Israel’s military offensive in Nuseirat in April, resumes his duties for Turkish state broadcaster TRT in Deir Al Balah.—Reuters

NEAR HAIFA: Thousands of flag-waving Palestinians marched in northern Israel on Tuesday to commemorate the flight and forced flight of Palestinians during the 1948 war surrounding Israel’s creation, and to demand the right of refugees to return.

Many of the about 3,000 people also called for an end to the conflict in Gaza as they took part in the march near the city of Haifa marking the “Nakba”, or “catastrophe”, when hundreds of thousands of Palestinians fled or were driven out during the 1948 war that accompanied Israel’s creation.

Many held up Palestinian flags and wore keffiyeh head scarves during the annual Return March, a rare Palestinian demonstration permitted to go ahead in Israel as the crisis in the Gaza Strip rages on.

Many clutched water bottles, and some pushed strollers, as they marched along a dirt path. One person held aloft half a watermelon, which became a Palestinian symbol after Israeli bans on the flag because of its red, green and black colours. Others called for Palestinians to be freed from Israeli occupation.

“This is part of our liberation,” said Fidaa Shehadeh, coordinator of the Women Against Weapons Coalition and former member of the Lydd Municipality Council. “It’s not only about ending the occupation but also about allowing all refugees the ability to return to the homeland.” Some 700,000 Palestinians left or were forced to flee their homes during the 1948 war. Shehadeh said her family was forcibly displaced from the coastal village of Majdal Asqalan, with some fleeing to the city of Lydd in what became Israel and others to Gaza. She considered herself an internally displaced person. She said “refugees remain refugees” 76 years later.

Shehadeh said her uncles and aunts in Gaza, whom she said she was last able to visit in 2008 with Israeli approval, are now displaced again as they try to escape Israel’s bombardment. They do not know if or when they will be able to return to their homes, she said.

Published in Dawn, May 15th, 2024

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