May 15 is “Yom al-Nakba,” or “Day of the Catastrophe,” marking the 65th anniversary of the day in 1948 when an estimated 700,000 Palestinians fled or were expelled from areas that had been incorporated into the newly formed state of Israel. This year’s Nakba Day is celebrated the day after Israelis mark their 65th independence day, called Yom Ha’azmaut in Hebrew.
This year’s Nabka Day saw rallies in Jeruslaem and all over the West Bank, the Palestinian Ma’an News Agency reported. Some of those protests turned violent. Ma’an reported that a peaceful rally in Qalandia, between Jerusalem and Ramallah, was broken up when Israeli forces “fired gas, sound bombs, and rubber bullets at marchers.”
An IDF spokeswoman told the Jerusalem Post that about 50 protestors in Qalandia threw stones at IDF soldiers. Other incidents of more than 100 people throwing stones were also reported in other areas of the West Bank. Haaretz reported that militants fired rockets into Israel from the Gaza Strip, but the rockets didn’t hit anything.
â€” Avital Leibovich (@AvitalLeibovich) May 15, 2013
Iran’s PressTV also reported a solidarity protest in London. The Times of Israel also reported a demonstration in Tel Aviv, near Tel Aviv University, held by Arab Israelis and “left-wing activists,” who read testimonies from activists’ families who had been displaced. A right-wing counter-protest took place nearby.
In Bethlehem, a number of Palestinian political leaders gave speeches to a crowd of “thousands,” Ma’an reported.
In previous years, Nakba Day rallies were occasions marked by violence and death. In 2011, 12 Palestinians were shot and killed when protesters in Gaza, Lebanon and Syria marched on Israeli borders.
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas gave a speech in which he said that Palestinians would not accept any proposal that conflicted with establishing a Palestinian state along the post-Yom Kippur war 1967 borders. "In the past, attempts have been made to erase our national identity and memory. But today we are a people whose presence on the world map cannot be ignored," Abbas said, as translated by Haaretz.
Today, more than two million Palestinian refugees live in Jordan, and more than 450,000 in Lebanon, according to the U.N. Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees. Another 496,000 are in Syria, and some have been among the 80,000 casualties estimated so far in the ongoing Syrian conflict.