Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 26 August 2019

Nakba Day: Palestinians mark the 71st anniversary of their catastrophe

Demonstrations were held across the Israeli-occupied West Bank and the Gaza Strip

Palestinians on Wednesday marked the 71st anniversary of their mass displacement during the 1948 war around Israel's creation.

Thousands gathered for demonstrations across the Israeli-occupied West Bank and the Gaza Strip on Wednesday to mark what the Palestinians call the "nakba," or "catastrophe".

Hundreds of thousands of Palestinians fled or were forced from their homes during the war surrounding Israel's establishment. Today, there are an estimated five million Palestinian refugees across the Middle East.

Gaza's health ministry reported that at least 60 people were injured in clashes that erupted along part of the border fence, although some said the protests were calmer than had been expected.

Israel's military said around 10,000 demonstrators were along the Gaza fence and that troops had been sent to disperse them, AFP reported.

They said in a statement that "rioters" were setting tyres on fire, throwing rocks and hurling "explosive devices".

Several incendiary devices that were mounted to balloons landed in southern Israel, causing a number of small blazes, firefighters said.

The military said that Palestinians had already begun leaving the border area by 4pm, far earlier than expected.

Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported that there were also protests in Bethlehem.

The demonstrations come two weeks after a ceasefire was reached following a violent weekend that saw some of the worst fighting between the two sides since 2014, when war broke out.

There have been regular protests and clashes along the Gaza border for more than a year, with at least 293 Palestinians killed by Israeli fire.

In the 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.

Sirens also wailed across the West Bank at noon in an expression of sadness.

Last year, dozens of Palestinians were killed by Israeli military fire in Gaza as a mass rally was held to protest against Israel's continued siege of the coastal enclave and the US embassy move from Tel Aviv to the contested city of Jerusalem.

Israel said at least 24 of the dead were members of terror groups.

Updated: May 15, 2019 06:40 PM

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