CAIRO – As millions of Palestinians and Arabs around the world mark the 66th anniversary of Nakba on May 15, frustrated refugees in Lebanon's port city of Sidon are plunged into fighting that casts a pall over commemorating their expulsion from Palestine.
“Is Israel in the camp?” Hajj Abu Mohammad Hammoud, 80, a Palestinian refugee in Lebanon's Ain al-Hilweh camp, told The Daily Star on Thursday, May 15.
“We nearly forgot the 1948 Nakba [catastrophe] because nowadays we are facing hundreds of daily crises,” he added.
|The Palestinian Nakba: The Resolve of Memory|
Over the past weeks, tension has escalated between various groups that inhabit the Southern Lebanon camp of Ain al-Hilweh which shelters thousands of Palestinian refugees.
Engaged in news about daily fighting, Palestinians would mark the Nakba memory with only a handful of posters.
“These days we were supposed to prepare for the Nakba, but we suffered our own nakba in the ... camp,” Ain al-Hilweh resident Abu Wael Klaib said.
“So we urge all the residents and all the forces to work on activating an effective and striking security force so it can strike down every person who tampers with the security of the camp; we are on a ship and everyone on board is drowning.”
The armed fighting in the camp has prompted security forces intervention by Islamist groups to restore order. A move criticized by residents.
“It’s a shame that forces must be put in place to control the situation,” Badiha al-Ali says, referring to the two-group security unit composed of the Islamist Usbat al-Ansar and Islamic Jihad, which was formed in response to Monday’s clashes between Islamist gunmen and their Fatah Movement rivals.
“Shame on them [those fighting],” she says as she pushes her child’s stroller.
“Did they forget Palestine?”
Despite clashes at Ain al-Hilweh camp, ‘Returning to Palestine’ group has announced plans to hold a march that will mourn the loss of Palestine and creation of Israel on its rubble in 1948.
“The highlight of our activities will be a symbolic march comprising of 50 people,” said Khaled Zeidan, who coordinated the 2011 Returning to Palestine march to Maroun al-Ras where many were killed while confronting the Israeli army.
“Sidon will be our starting point, and we’ll try to make it to the closest point to the occupied territories of Palestine.
“We should strengthen the Nakba memory in the minds of our youth.”
After a seven-year rift, rival Palestinian factions Fatah and Hamas will commemorate Nakba day together for the first time, activating a reconciliation deal that was signed last month.
“After 66 years since the Nakba, we will prove that Palestine is an independent state,” President Mahmoud Abbas said in a speech broadcasted on Palestinian TV on late Wednesday, KUNA reported.
“We hope that this year will be the end of our suffering and the beginning of a new future for our nation.”
The events will take place in Judea and Samaria where Hamas and Fatah flags will be hoisted during the commemoration.
Marking the expulsion of Palestinians from their lands, the Supreme National Committee to Commemorate the Nakba Day said, “The Right of Return (for Palestinian refugees to their homeland) is both sacred and inalienable, thus non-negotiable.”
“The Palestinian people recall this ominous day and all its ramifications of displacement… and continued decades-long suffering, but all the while maintain unweakened perseverance and demand the Right of Return be honored.”
On April 18, 1948, Palestinian Tiberius was captured by Menachem Begin's Irgun group, putting its 5,500 Palestinian residents in flight. On April 22, Haifa fell to the Zionist mobs and 70,000 Palestinians fled.
On April 25, Irgun began bombarding civilian sectors of the Palestinian city of Jaffa - the largest city in Palestine at that time, terrifying the 750,000 inhabitants into panicky flight.
On May 14, the day before the creation of Israel, Jaffa completely surrendered to the much better-equipped Zionist gangs and only about 4,500 of its population remained.
According to official Palestinian figures, 5.3 million Palestinians - almost half of their total number in the world - are registered by the United Nations as refugees in Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, the West Bank and Gaza.
Many of them live in the concrete warrens of overcrowded camps, with poor access to employment and basic services.
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