As thousands of Palestinians throughout the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, and Lebanon commemorated the Nakba, or catastrophe on Thursday, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas used the opportunity to emphasize the urgency of finding a solution to the conflict which has plagued the region for 60 years.
“After 60 years since the ‘Nakba,’ the time has come for the Palestinian people to establish an independent state with Jerusalem as its capital,” Abbas said during a televised speech which was broadcast in honor of the day.
Occupation, and the continuation of the Nakba won’t bring security to Israel, the PA president warned, saying that “an end to the occupation will bring security, this is what’s been proven throughout the history of occupations in the world.”
“After 60 years, I say again that our hands our extended for peace, that is the strategic our strategic choice,” Abbas said. “I again emphasize that the settlements are destroying the chance for peace. All the settlement construction, especially in Jerusalem and in the E1 area must stop, in order not to lose the chance for peace.”
During his speech, Abbas also touched on the plight of Palestinian refugees, expressing hopes that the issue will be resolved, and that the political separation of the Gaza Strip would soon end. Throughout the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, and east Jerusalem, Palestinians marked Israel’s 60th anniversary by staging a series of marches and strikes. On this occasion, the Palestinian Authority and Hamas pledged that they would never give up the right of return for all refugees to their original homes inside Israel. Abbas joined dozens of Palestinians in signing a document pledging to continue the “struggle” until all the Palestinian refugees are permitted to return.
“Israel has failed in wiping out the memory of the Nakba from the minds of successive Palestinian generations,” Abbas declared. “They [Israel] thought that perhaps the elderly would forget. But today we see that neither the elderly nor the young have forgotten. Everyone remembers the Nakba.”
Palestinians living in Lebanon were urged to march on Israel’s northern border Thursday as part of “Nakba Day.” The event has been named the March of Return. Organizers of the event said the Palestinians would form a human chain along the Israeli-Lebanese border. They said the event would be peaceful, during which the protesters would light candles and chant slogans.
The PA announced that the Palestinians would stop work and traffic at 12 noon to mark the event. In the Gaza Strip, the Hamas government decided to suspend studies in all schools and universities. The Palestinians are also planning to fly some 22,000 black balloons in several West Bank cities and Jerusalem as a sign of grief over the creation of Israel. The Palestinians said that the black balloons were also aimed at protesting against the current visit of US President George W. Bush to Israel.