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Thousands of Palestinians Mark 'Day of Catastrophe', Hunger Strike Victory

Demonstrations in West Bank, Gaza and Israel as Palestinians remember displacement from lands in 1948

Common Dreams staff

Members of Hamas security forces carry a large Palestinian flag during a rally marking Nakba in Gaza City May 15, 2012. (Photo: Reuters/Mohammed Salem)

Thousands of Palestinians flooded the streets today in rallies and demonstrations throughout the West Bank, Gaza, and Jerusalem, marking the anniversary of the 'day of catastrophe', or Nakba Day.

On this day in 1948, over 760,000 Palestinians were driven out of their homes by Israeli forces.

In Ramallah, "cars were decked out with black flags carrying a picture of a key and the word 'return' in English and Arabic to remember homes they left or were forced from which are now inside Israel," reports Agence France-Presse.

Demonstrations also took place at the Ofer military prison, the site of this month's Palestinian prisoners' mass hunger strike; however, today many celebrated the end of the hunger strike, which resolved yesterday in favor of the strikers' demands.

A general strike was also observed by merchants across the West Bank, Gaza, and Arab towns and cities inside Israel.

Several small clashes erupted between protesters and Israeli forces; Israelis fired rubber bullets and tear gas at points throughout the day, according to Al-jazeera. More than 80 Palestinians have been treated for injuries.

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Al-jazeera: Palestinians mark Nakba with protests

Protests were taking place across the Palestinian territories on Tuesday with the main rally staged in Ramallah in the occupied West Bank. Demonstrations also took place at the nearby Ofer military prison and Qalandia checkpoint where there were some minor clashes.

Our correspondent Cal Perry in Qalandiya said: "The clashes are very small and very fierce. The Israelis have been firing rubber bullets and tear gas throughout the morning.

"The crowd is expected to grow throughout the day. We are expecting to see things in Jerusalem and Qalandia because it is the crossing between Jerusalem and Ramallah."

A mass rally is scheduled to take place in the Gaza Strip, with smaller protests to be held elsewhere in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. [...]

The Higher Arab Monitoring Committee, which represents Palestinian communities in Israel, has called for a general strike and for Palastinians to visit the sites of former Palestinian villages.

More than 760,000 Palestinians, estimated today to number 4.7 million with their descendants, fled or were driven out of their homes.

About 160,000 Palestinians stayed behind, and now number about 1.3 million, or 20 per cent of the population of Israel.

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Agence France-Presse: Palestinians mark Nakba Day, hail hunger strike's end

Loud sirens blared across the West Bank city of Ramallah at midday to mark the anniversary, with people observing a minute's silence ahead of a huge rally in the Clock Square.

Throughout the city, cars were decked out with black flags carrying a picture of a key and the word "return" in English and Arabic to remember homes they left or were forced from which are now inside Israel.

Hundreds also gathered at the nearby Ofer military prison, and at the Qalandiya crossing between Ramallah and Jerusalem, where youths hurled stones at Israeli troops, who fired tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse them, AFP correspondents said.

Further north, several thousand people gathered in Nablus city centre waving flags and calling for the right of return.

But they also hailed the successful end of a mass hunger strike by Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails, which was resolved late on Monday.

This year's anniversary was to have been a protest over the ongoing mass hunger strike by 1,550 prisoners, most of whom had been refusing food for between four and 11 weeks.

But in a last-minute development, the dispute was resolved late on Monday when prisoner leaders signed a deal with Israel, agreeing to end their fast in exchange for an easing of their conditions.

Thousands more demonstrated in the southern city of Hebron which was turned into a sea of red, white, black and green Palestinian flags, with protesters also celebrating the successful end of the prisoners' strike. [...]

More than 760,000 Palestinians -- estimated today to number 4.8 million with their descendants -- fled or were driven out of their homes.

Around 160,000 Palestinians stayed behind and are now known as Arab Israelis. They now number about 1.3 million people, or some 20 percent of the population.

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