Nakba Day commemorations to only take place inside camps
|The Daily Star|
AIN AL-HILWEH, Lebanon: Tuesday’s commemorations of the 64th anniversary of the Nakba – the Palestinian catastrophe of 1948 – will be restricted to the country’s refugee camps, with no mass rallies planned at the border with Israel.
These arrangements were made after Lebanese security officials informed Palestinian factions that a repeat of last year’s march to the border would not be allowed.
On Nakba Day last year, some protesters broke away from the main march and approached the border fence at Maroun al-Ras bearing rocks. Israeli troops shot and killed 10 people and wounded many more.
This year, Lebanese security officials have urged Palestinians to refrain from mass gatherings and keep commemorations inside the camps.
Dozens of elementary school students Tuesday staged a demonstration in the Ain al-Hilweh refugee camp near Sidon, re-enacting the arrival of their relatives at the camp more than 60 years ago in 1948.
Dressed in traditional Palestinian clothes, 5-year-old Salim played the role of an old man married to fellow student Nabila Sara.
“I learned this from my teacher in school,” Salim said of his acting skills. “She told me to walk like an old man because this is how my grandparents left Palestine.”
Other students stood at the camp’s gate, many holding banners bearing slogans against Israel and calling for their right to return to Palestine. Other posters listed the names of Palestinian towns and villages.
Standing next to the students, a teacher explained that the names of Palestinian towns and villages are at the heart of the school’s curriculum.
“Those towns belong to Palestinians. The Jews took our country, it should be returned,” said student Marfat al-Agha, who was surrounded by pictures of Al-Aqsa Mosque in occupied Jerusalem and the late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat.
Meanwhile, various Palestinian factions called on Palestinians to participate in the Nakba ceremonies at Ain al-Hilweh and other camps. The Palestinian Liberation Organization of Lebanon said in a statement over the weekend that Tuesday would be a day of strikes and anger in all of Lebanon’s camps.
The statement also said that the general strike on the anniversary of Nakba will be dedicated to the hundreds of Palestinian prisoners who were on hunger strike for weeks.
Israel said some 1,600 Palestinian prisoners participated in the strike, Palestinians put the number closer to 2,500. The prisoners were protesting prison conditions, including solitary confinement, detention without charge, and restrictions on family visits.
Monday, a deal was reached to end the strike. Some prisoners had been on strike for 77 days, with some reportedly in life-threatening condition.
In March, some 2,000 demonstrators gathered at Beaufort Castle, south Lebanon, to mark Land Day. Tens of thousands of Palestinians in Lebanon had registered for a march to the border, but the protest was downsized and pushed back. Sources attributed this to the Army’s restriction of the event.
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