RAMALLAH, West Bank -- Palestinians held rallies and protests Wednesday to commemorate 65 years of what has come to be known as the “nakba,” or catastrophe, a reference to their displacement in the first Arab-Israeli war in 1948.
Thousands of Palestinians rallied in several West Bank and Gaza cities, and others clashed with Israeli soldiers at contact points.
Medics said dozens of Palestinians were treated for either tear gas inhalation, minor injuries from rubber-coated metal bullets fired by Israeli soldiers or beatings at various locations in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.
Israel declared independence on May 14, 1948, and war with the Arab states began that night. Over the following months, hundreds of thousands of Palestinian inhabitants fled or were expelled from their homes as fighting raged throughout the country. Palestinians have adopted May 15 as Nakba Day, their commemoration of the event.
The largest rally this year was held in Ramallah, the de facto capital of the Palestinian Authority, where the national security band and the scouts joined in a parade through city streets followed by refugees carrying names of their destroyed villages and keys to the homes they left behind in 1948.
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said that in spite of 65 years of being stateless, the Palestinian people nevertheless were able to gain international recognition of their existence.
“We were able to defeat attempts to deny our existence and our rights and attempts to delegitimize us,” he said the night before in a televised speech.
“World governments, including the U.S., now recognize our legitimate right to establish our independent state on our land occupied in 1967,” he said in reference to the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip, which Israel occupied in the 1967 Arab-Israeli war.
Abbas said he was hopeful efforts by Secretary of State John F. Kerry would lead to a two-state solution and the eventual creation of a Palestinian state.
Kerry is expected to visit the Middle East on Tuesday, his fourth trip since he assumed office, with an attempt to bring the Palestinians and Israelis back to the negotiating table.