Islam Online- News Section

56 Years On, Palestinian Refugees Still Have Home Keys

GAZA CITY, May 15 (IslamOnline.net & News Agencies) - Thousands of Palestinians took to the streets across the West Bank and Gaza Strip on Saturday, May 15, to commemorate the 56th anniversary of Nakba (loss of Palestine), showing keys and title deeds of their usurped homes.

At least 2,500 people flocked to the center of Ramallah, waving flags and chanting "No peace, no stability without the right of return," reported Agence France-Presse (AFP).

Hundreds of children held up placards bearing the names of Palestinian villages and towns - now either razed or renamed in Israel - from which their families originated.

In the northern city of Nablus, some 5,000 demonstrators burned a cardboard model of an Israeli tank, along with life-sized effigies of Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, U.S. President George W. Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair.

"We say 'no' to all projects that deny the right of return," they shouted, referring to Bush's statements that Palestinian refugees should be settled in the future state and not return to their homes inside what is now Israel.

Another 3,000 demonstrators gathered in the northern city of Qalqilya and a similar number was reported gathering in Tulkarem, Palestinian security officials said.

In the southern West Bank, around 1,000 demonstrators gathered in Bethlehem and another 200 were seen in central Al-Khalil (Hebron), shouting and waving flags, AFP correspondents said.

In Gaza, around 10,000 demonstrators flocked to the Palestinian Legislative Council headquarters, waving pictures of Arafat and holding up ageing keys of what used to be their homes before Israel was created.

"We will return to our land," they vowed, showing keys and title deeds of their lost homes.

Meanwhile, more than 7,000 refugees took to the streets of the Ain al-Helweh refugee camp on the outskirts of the southern Lebanese port of Sidon, chanting anti-Israeli slogans.

They torched Israeli and U.S. flags in the main square at the camp's northern entrance.

"We will continue the struggle to confront the Israeli and American plot against the Palestinians. We call on the Arabs to help the Palestinians return home," said Khaled Aref, the Fatah representative in Sidon.

"We call on Arab leaders to take up their responsibilities and stop postponing their annual summit, or else another Naqba will take place in Palestine."

Some elderly refugees also carried the keys of homes in modern-day Israel.

There are some 370,000 Palestinian refugees in Lebanon, all of whom are denied citizenship.

Around half of them still live in miserable conditions in 12 refugee camps dotted around the country.

Hundreds of thousands of Palestinian fled their homes or were forced out of them on the creation of Israel.

Their descendants now make up a Palestinian refugee community of some five million in the West Bank, Gaza and abroad who have kept alive the dream of reclaiming homes in what is now Israel under any peace accord.

Those who stayed in their villages when Israel was created are now described as Israeli Arabs.

Holy Right

Palestinian President Yasser Arafat said on Saturday that no one could legally deny the right of refugees to return to their homes.

"The Palestinian refugees' right of return is a holy right confirmed by international law. It is not right that anybody in the world deny the right of the refugees to return to their homes," Arafat said in his annual television address.

He asserted that Israel could not turn a blind eye to the suffering caused when it came into being.

"Israel cannot ignore its moral and political responsibility for this national tragedy which has hurt the Palestinian refugees," said the veteran Palestinian leader.

Israel rejects the "right of return" and wants refugees resettled in a future Palestinian state.

Palestinians and Israeli Arabs commemorate Naqba Day on May 15 - the official date of Israel's creation according to the western calendar.

Israel marked the anniversary on April 26, according to the Jewish calendar.

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