People carry their belongings as they walk through a rubble-strewn street in Gaza City, on Wednesday.—AFP
People carry their belongings as they walk through a rubble-strewn street in Gaza City, on Wednesday.—AFP

GAZA: Palestinians commemorated the 1948 “Nakba” or catastrophe, on Wednesday, marking the time when hundreds of thousands were dispossessed of their homes in the war at the birth of the state of Israel, as fighting raged amid the rubble in Gaza.

The Nakba has been one of the defining experiences for Palestinians for more than 75 years, helping to shape their national identity and casting its shadow on their conflicted relationship with Israel in the decades since.

This year’s commemoration has been dominated by the plight of around two million Palestinians in Gaza, most of whom are living in temporary shelters after being displaced from their homes by the Israeli campaign launched in the wake of the Hamas-led attack on Israel last October.

“There is no catastrophe worse than this one,” said 80-year-old Umm Moha­mmed, who survived the original Nakba as a child in the southern town of Beersheba before coming to Gaza, where she has spent most of her life and where she now lives in a tent in the southern city of Rafah.

UN launches probe into killing of staffer in Rafah strike

“I’ve been here for about 80 years and a catastrophe like this, I have not seen. Our homes have gone, our children have gone, our property has gone, our gold has gone, our incomes have gone — nothing is left. What is left for us to cry over?”

The seven-month-old Israeli campaign, which has left much of the Gaza Strip a wasteland of rubble and wrecked buildings, has killed more than 35,000 Palestinians and displaced most of the population, drawing fears among many of a second Nakba in which they would be forced from Gaza altogether.

UN probe

The United Nations has launched an investigation into an unidentified strike on a UN car in Rafah on Monday that killed its first international staff in Gaza since Oct 7, a spokesperson for the UN Secretary General said.

The staffer, a retired Indian Army officer named Waibhav Anil Kale, was working with the UN Department of Safety and Security and was on route to the European Hospital in Rafah along with a colleague, who was also injured in the attack.

On Wednesday, India’s foreign ministry said its diplomatic missions were “in touch with relevant authorities” on the inv­e­sti­gation, and helping to bring home the remains.

Published in Dawn, May 16th, 2024

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