Palestinians assert right to return on 71st anniversary of Nakba Day

Xinhua News Agency | May 15, 2019 at 1:09 PM

GAZA/RAMALLAH, May 15 (Xinhua) -- The Palestinians marked on Wednesday the 71st anniversary of the Nakba Day, or "Day of the Catastrophe," the day after Israel declared its independence in 1948.

Clashes broke out on Wednesday afternoon between hundreds of demonstrators and Israeli soldiers on the border between the eastern Gaza Strip and Israel, said eyewitnesses and Gaza-based radio stations.

Medics and paramedics said 10 Palestinians were shot and wounded during the clashes by Israeli soldiers' gunfire, including one in serious condition.

Eyewitnesses said Israeli soldiers showered the demonstrators with sewage water, and fired tear gas canisters and rubber gunshots to disperse the demonstrators.

The Hamas-run al-Aqsa radio station reported that thousands are expected to arrive in the eastern Gaza Strip, close to the border with Israel to join the Nakba event.

In the Gaza Strip, more than half of the 2 million residents are refugees. Shops, schools, universities, ministries and banks observed the general strike and close down on the day.

"We want today to send messages to the Israeli occupation and to the international community that we will never forget, we will never forgive and we will grab our rights sooner or later," the highest commission said in a press statement.

In 1948, 957,000 Palestinians, 66 percent of the total population of the historic Palestine, were expelled and displaced from their territories now occupied by Israel.

Last year, 61 Palestinians were shot dead by Israeli gunfire during clashes that broke out in the eastern Gaza Strip, when tens of thousands marked the 70th anniversary of the Nakba Day, according to the Health Ministry in Gaza.

The ministry said since the outbreak of protests, known as the Great March of Return, on March 30 last year, the Israeli army has shot and killed 305 Palestinian demonstrators, including 59 children and 10 women.

Israeli reports earlier said the Israeli army deployed more troops on the border with the Gaza Strip, adding the army closed down all roads that lead to the area of the fence of the border with the Hamas-ruled coastal enclave.

An Israeli army spokesman warned people in the Gaza Strip not to reach the border fence or damage the infrastructure as such move would put them at risk.

Meanwhile, the Palestinians highlighted their adherence to their right of return and expressed their rejection to the U.S. decisions against the Palestinian cause.

"Israel and its partner the United States are continuing to pursue their historic injustice legally, morally and politically by violating the legitimate and internationally guaranteed rights of our people," said Hanan Ashrawi, a member of Palestine Liberation Organization executive committee, said in a press statement.

Israel and its aggressive alliance "are consolidating their policies, which are based on the Judaization of the Palestinian place and the theft of land and history," she added.

"The U.S. unilateral actions and plans in the Palestinian territories are a new Nakba for the Palestinians everywhere," the Palestinian official noted.