Palestinians mark 64th Nakba Day Palestinians hold candles during a rally marking the al-Nakba Day in the West Bank city of Ramallah, M...
Palestinians hold candles during a rally marking the al-Nakba Day in the West Bank city of Ramallah, May 14, 2012. Palestinians will mark the al-Nakba Day on May 15 when thousands of Palestinians were forced to leave their homes during the Arab-Israeli war in 1948. (Xinhua/Chen Xu)
by Saud Abu Ramadan
GAZA, May 15 (Xinhua) -- A yellow van drove through Gaza City's densely populated streets on Tuesday, with a loudspeaker calling on residents to mark the 64th anniversary of Nakba Day, or "the day of catastrophe" in Arabic.
Hundreds of young men and women waving small flags of Palestine marched through the city's main street Omer al-Mukhtar, led by eight young men carrying a huge map of historic Palestine with names of towns and villages on it.
A Palestinian flag of the similar size was also held by eight youths, who were chanted slogans that marked Nakba Day and called for giving Palestinians the legitimate rights they have been demanding and struggling for since 1948.
Every May 15, Palestinians mark this special day that reminds them of their homeland, which has been occupied by Israel since the Jewish state's establishment 64 years ago.
"I came here to join this rally to say to the world that Palestine is our right. I wasn't born in Jaffa, but my father, who died five years ago, was born there. I live in Gaza but I still consider myself a Palestinian from Jaffa," said Ahmed Abu Ghali, a 42-year-old Palestinian teacher from Gaza.
There are eight refugee camps in the Gaza Strip, the biggest of which is Jabalia in the north, where 200,000 Palestinian refugees from the occupied towns and villages are living.
Representatives and leaders of various Palestinian factions, including the Islamic Hamas movement and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah Party, joined the rally, speaking to the crowds about the Palestinian people's rights to their lands.
A marathon was also organized in Gaza City by the de facto Hamas government's ministry of sports and youths. Hundreds of participants, aged between 8 and 60 years old, wore T-shorts with slogans that "Jerusalem is ours, Palestine is our right" and started from the Sheikh Radwan neighborhood in the city.
Head of the Hamas government Ismail Haneya joined the marathon, which ended at the square of Unknown Soldiers with a gathering. At the square, flags were waved and the crowds chanted slogans calling the international community to help the Palestinians end the Israeli occupation.
In the southern Gaza Strip city of Khan Younis, dozens of men and women in traditional garments acted in a scene with traditional tents, depicting the Palestinian farmers' life in their homeland 64 years ago.
Mazen Abu Zeid, chairman of the popular committee of the refugees in southern Gaza Strip, told Xinhua that the refugees' day in Khan Younis this year includes manifestation of details of life the Palestinians were living before 1948 "to keep the memories and show the world how the Palestinians used to live in their towns."
"The festival is a message to the world and to Israel that the Palestinian people are sticking first of all to their right of return. If the first generation of refugees who lived the Nakba had died, other generations will keep counting on the same principle," said Abu Zeid.
Zaheya Madi, a Palestinian woman who was born in 1947, said she was one year old when her family was forced to leave their village, Beit Jerja, during the war in 1948 when Israel closed to the borders with the Gaza Strip. "I can't remember anything, but I still miss my home," she said.
The Palestinian Central Statistics Bureau said in a report to mark Nekba Day that Israel controlled 774 Palestinian towns and villages, and 531 of these towns were ruined. It also said Israeli soldiers killed 15,000 Palestinians before, during or after the war in 1948.