Palestinians have staged rallies across the occupied territories to commemorate the 73rd anniversary of the Nakba Day (the Day of Catastrophe), during which hundreds of thousands of Palestinians were ethnically cleansed from their homes by Zionist paramilitaries to make way for the creation of Israel.
Palestinians, whose families were uprooted in the 1948 Arab-Israeli War, on Thursday visited several destroyed towns and villages that once accommodated their ancestors, reiterating their right to return as they have done for decades.
Even though the Association for the Defense of the Rights of the Displaced (ADRID), the organizer of the annual March of Return, had called upon people to participate in online demonstrations and activities due to the coronavirus pandemic, many in-person demonstrations went ahead regardless.
The ADRID called on Palestinians inside Israel to display the name of their families' destroyed villages and raise Palestinian flags on rooftops, terraces and balconies.
“Let everyone know that there is no substitute for the legitimate, human and legal right of return, which was guaranteed by the international legal bodies, especially the Resolution 194 issued by the United Nations, and to prove to the whole world that the Palestinian people refuse to forget and give up the right of return,” it pointed out in a statement.
They walked to the depopulated Arab village of al-Damun, located 11.5 kilometers from the city of Acre, raising Palestinian flags and giving speeches.
As Israel celebrated its independence day, hundreds of Palestinians marched to commemorate the anniversary of the 1948 Nakba.— Middle East Eye (@MiddleEastEye) April 16, 2021
800,000 Palestinians were driven from their homes 73 years ago to make way for the creation of the state of Israel https://t.co/PjXxN6JmpV
Similar rallies were also held in the former Arab villages of Umm az-Zinat, Saffuriya, al-Bassa, Lajjun and Malul.
Palestinians inside Israel raised placards bearing the slogan “Their independence day is our Nakba day,” and performed several cultural activities.
“Hittin has been subjected to harm and vandalism since the Nakba, and the preservation of Hittin mosque was a great challenge… in addition to the long struggles to preserve the village cemetery,” Tarek Shabayteh, whose family are from the town of Hittin, near Nazareth, told the Arabic-language Arab48 news website.
Israel strikes Hamas targets in Gaza
The Israeli military struck targets in the Gaza Strip early Friday, hours after Palestinian resistance fighters in the besieged coastal enclave fired a rocket at southern Israel.
The military said in a statement that fighter jets and other aircraft hit a number of sites linked to Hamas resistance movement.
The rocket, which was fired as Israel’s "Independence Day" came to an end, struck a field northeast of Gaza.
The Israeli military said the projectile caused neither injury nor damage.
The rocket attack triggered sirens in the town of Sderot and the nearby communities of Nir Am and Ibim in southern Israel.
PM Johnson's opposition to ICC probe of Israeli war crimes
Meanwhile, the Palestinian Authority's diplomatic mission in London in a statement posted on its website denounced British Prime Minister Boris Johnson for giving “carte blanche to Israel” after he issued a statement opposing the International Criminal Court's (ICC) decision to look into possible war crimes in the Israeli-occupied territories.
In his letter to the Conservative Friends of Israel lobby group, Johnson had backed Israel’s claims that the court had no jurisdiction to investigate because “Israel is not a party to the statute of Rome [that established the court] and Palestine is not a sovereign state.”
The Palestinian mission said the letter marked “a low point in UK-Palestine relations and undermines the UK’s credibility on the international stage.”
“The letter is a contradiction of international law. It is a contradiction of British policy. It subverts the rules-based global order. And it sets back efforts to secure a lasting and just peace in Palestine,” it noted.
“It is clear that the UK now believes Israel is above the law. There is no other interpretation of a statement that gives carte blanche to Israel to continue its illegal settlement project in occupied territory, and signals to Israel that no matter its actions vis-à-vis the Palestinian people in occupied territory, it will not be held to account,” the mission said.
“If Israel is not held responsible for its actions, it has no incentive to comply with international law. If 'friends and allies' are exempt from international law, there is no foundation for the rules-based global order,” the Palestinian mission continued.
Palestinians mark 73rd anniversary of Nakba as sirens wail in Israelhttps://t.co/5OxiPRosrL— Press TV (@PressTV) April 16, 2021
“Mr. Johnson's position rules out any legal avenue to seek redress and accountability for crimes perpetrated against our people, leaving Palestinians to ask: what does the British government expect them to do?” it highlighted.
Last week, prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel will tell the ICC that it will not cooperate with its investigation into war crimes in the occupied Palestinian territories.
Netanyahu said in a statement that Israel will respond to a notification letter from The Hague-based tribunal, and that it does not recognize the court’s authority.
Last month, ICC Chief Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda announced in a statement the launch of a war crimes investigation into the Palestinian territories, which have been under Israeli occupation since 1967.
She said her inquiry will be conducted “independently, impartially and objectively, without fear or favor.”
The Palestinian Authority welcomed the prosecutor’s announcement.
It is “a long-awaited step that serves Palestine’s tireless pursuit of justice and accountability, which are indispensable pillars of the peace the Palestinian people seek and deserve”, the PA foreign ministry said in a statement.
Palestine was accepted as an ICC member in 2015, three years after signing the court's founding Rome Statute, based on its “observer state” status at the United Nations.
Both Israel and the United States have refused to sign up to the ICC, which was set up in 2002 to be the only global tribunal trying the world's worst crimes, war crimes and crimes against humanity.
Both have claimed they have credible legal systems that can properly adjudicate human rights violations, which make ICC intervention dispensable.
Israeli settler runs over, kills young Palestinian
Separately, a young Palestinian man lost his life after being run over by an Israeli settler in the occupied West Bank.
Palestinian sources said the victim, identified as Ali Abu al-Khair, was struck near the city of Ariha on Thursday evening.
The man was subsequently taken a nearby hospital, where he succumbed to his injuries.
“The heinous crime of an Israeli settler to run over Palestinian youth Ali Abu al-Khair from Balata Camp reflects the arrogance of settlers,” Hamas spokesperson Abdel Latif al-Qanoa said in a statement.
“The repetition of crimes by the Israeli Occupation and settlers against our people in the West Bank stresses the need for the Palestinian resistance front to be given a free hand in order to activate all its tools and confront the crimes of the Occupation,” he added.
More than 600,000 Israelis live in over 230 settlements built since the 1967 Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories of the West Bank and East Jerusalem al-Quds. All Israeli settlements are illegal under international law.
The UN Security Council has condemned Israel’s settlement activities in the occupied Palestinian territories in several resolutions.
Palestinians want the West Bank as part of a future independent Palestinian state with East Jerusalem al-Quds as its capital.
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