BEIRUT: Shops and schools in Palestinian refugee camps in south Lebanon closed their doors Saturday to mark Land Day, an annual commemoration of the killing of six unarmed Palestinians at the hands of Israeli forces in 1976.
From Ain al-Hilweh to Mieh Mieh, Rashidieh, Bass and Burj al-Shemali, thousands of Palestinian schoolchildren abstained from classes after the Palestinian Popular Committee in South Lebanon called for a national day of mourning and a general strike.
Mohammad al-Natour, a vendor at Ain al-Hilweh’s main vegetable market, told The Daily Star that while the economic situation was difficult, he felt it was important to close to commemorate Land Day.
“On this 43rd anniversary of [Land Day], our people continue to declare their commitment to their rights and to offer their invaluable support defending their land,” a statement from the Palestinian Popular Committee read.
It noted that this year’s anniversary came in the shadow of the expected announcement of U.S. President Donald Trump’s so-called Deal of the Century - a proposal for peace between Palestine and Israel.
“Our heroic Palestinian people at home and in the diaspora will remain immune to all those projects aimed at their land, existence and national identity,” the statement added.
Some 17 kilometers away from Lebanon’s southern border, in Rashidieh, hundreds of people gathered to listen to a lecture about the events of March 30, 1976, when Palestinians rose up in protest of the Israeli occupation of their territory and escalating land seizures.
Children wore traditional Palestinian keffiyehs and dresses, while dancers performed dabke.
“My grandfather tells me about what happened and what is still happening in Palestine from the Nakba until today,” said Mohammad Abu al-Aynayn, a Lebanese child who attended the event. “We have great hope for the struggle of Palestinians in Palestine,” he added.
Mohammad al-Bekaai, a media official from the Fatah Movement, told The Daily Star it was important to hold such celebrations “that remind us of Palestine.”
On Land Day last year, Palestinians in the Gaza Strip launched weekly protests dubbed the Great March of Return to demand the end of Israel’s siege on the enclave and remind the international community of Palestinians’ right of return under U.N. Resolution 194.
Some 270 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli fire during the year of demonstrations, according to the Gaza Health Ministry. Two Israeli soldiers have been killed over the same period. Writing by Jacob Boswall and Emily Lewis