Thousands marched in Gaza to mark the 65th Nakba anniversary demanding faction leaders in Gaza call for unifying the Palestinian political leadership as a top priority.
For Palestinians and Arabs, May 14, 1948 marks a day of rage they call al-Naqba, Arabic for ‘the Catastrophe’.
More than 760,000 Palestinians – estimated to now number 4.8 million with their descendants – were driven out of their homes, exiled and many killed by the Zionists and their British allies to create the entity of Israel.
The thousands who marched in Gaza City to mark 2013 Nakba Day, chanted slogans about the right to return and ending Palestinian division.
The 160,000 Palestinians, who remained in occupied Palestine after 1948, now number around 1.36 million people, or 20% of the population.
‘The Palestinian people have made hundreds of sacrifices during 65 years of Nakba to establish a Palestinian state and stick to the right of return,’ said Fatah leader Faysal Abu Shahla.
Nasser Salih, a Gaza-based leader with the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine, said the Palestinian people have stayed firm on their land and insist on the right of return ‘despite all attempts and efforts to erase Palestinian national identity.’
Senior PFLP leader Kayid al-Ghoul said national unity is vital to overcome pressure to accept an ‘alternative homeland,’ while Islamic Jihad said Israel’s occupation is void and must be ‘resisted by all possible means’.
During the demonstrations, Israeli forces broke up a Nakba rally at Qalandiya. Israeli forces fired tear gas, sound bombs, and rubber bullets at marchers, injuring several people on the peaceful demonstration.
An Israeli army spokeswoman said over 50 Palestinians hurled rocks at Israeli soldiers, who responded with ‘riot dispersal means’.
• Ghatheyya Mifleh al-Khawalda was 15 years old when she fled her home during the Nakba of 1948.
Now 80, Ghatheyya was once a carefree teenager who used to live with her mother and sister in the village of al-Qastina, northeast of Gaza.
Although her early life was marked by tragedy – her grandmother died when she was born and her father passed away on Eid al-Adha – she says she had a happy childhood.
‘We had a very nice house, a big house with marble floors in the hallway. My father was a farmer, and we had farmland with orange trees, apple trees, grapefruit trees and others. I used to spend my days playing with my sister and the other girls in the village. We were very happy,’ she told the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights.
Her life changed dramatically in 1948, when Jewish militias arrived in the area where she lived.
‘We had heard stories about attacks on other villages. Still, the attack on al-Qastina came without warning. Before that, there had been a British military camp nearby, but that year the British left and allowed the Jewish groups to take over.’
Some Jewish militia members were wearing uniform and others had civilian clothes, Ghatheyya said, and when they arrived in the village they began firing at people, killing three villagers.
‘We ran away, afraid for our safety, and went to Tal al-Safi, a nearby village on a hill. It was within walking distance, and we were in a hurry to leave, so we didn’t take anything with us. It was like Doomsday. It was utter terror. People’s minds were imprisoned by fear. We couldn’t think of anything except leaving, not even simple things like bringing food with us,’ she said.
After a few days in Tal es-Safi, militias came again and forced them to leave. Ghatheyya and her family fled to Beit Jibrin to spend the night, but were followed and forced to leave again.
‘If you wanted to die, you stayed. If you wanted to live, you left,’ she recalls. ‘Their main aim was not to kill us, but to get rid of us. If they had wanted us all dead, not one of us would have survived. They used fear to force us to leave our land.’
The family walked along the coast until they reached Gaza. There were thousands of people who fled other villages, sleeping in mosques or on the street, Ghatheyya says, and UNRWA began to build tents for the families.
Ghatheyya and her husband Ahmed, also a refugee from al-Qastina, now have 32 grandchildren and live with their son Nehad. She says she thinks often about her village, and had the chance to visit al-Qastina in the early 1980s and 1990s.
‘Al-Qastina crosses my mind very often. It doesn’t make sense that I cannot be in my home, on my land, in the place where I grew up. I still dream of the days of the land.’
• The International Criminal Court has opened a preliminary probe into Israel’s deadly raid on a Gaza-bound flotilla in 2010, the prosecutor’s office said on Tuesday.
‘My office will be conducting a preliminary examination in order to establish whether the criteria for opening an investigation are met,’ Fatou Bensouda said in a statement issued from the court based in The Hague
Nine Turkish nationals died when Israeli commandos staged a botched pre-dawn raid on a six-ship flotilla seeking to bust Israel’s naval blockade of the Gaza Strip on May 31, 2010.
Bensouda said she had met Istanbul-based lawyers who are acting for the government of the Comoros, which referred the case to her office.
The ship on which the activists sailed was registered in the Indian Ocean island country, which has been a state party to the ICC since 2006.
‘After careful analysis of all available information, I shall make a determination that will be made public in due course,’ Bensouda said.
Israel imposed its blockade on Gaza in 2006 after militants there seized an Israeli soldier, who was eventually freed in 2011 in a trade for 1,000 Palestinian prisoners held by the Israelis.
The blockade was strengthened in 2007, when the Islamist Hamas movement took control of Gaza, then eased somewhat following an international outcry over the killing of the Turkish activists.
The maritime assault severely wrecked relations between the former regional allies, with Ankara demanding a formal apology and compensation for the families of the raid victims, as well as the lifting of the blockade.
Bensouda’s office receives numerous requests every year for probes into alleged crimes like genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes.
According to the Rome Statute, the court’s founding document, prosecutors may now gather initial information about the case.
If Bensouda believes she has enough evidence, she may then approach judges for the go-ahead to open a full investigation which could lead to a future trial.
Prosecutors are also busy with initial probes in several other countries like Afghanistan, Colombia and Nigeria, but so far no decision whether to ask judges for permission to open full investigations has been made following these investigations.