SIDON, Lebanon: Palestinians and Lebanese gathered Tuesday to commemorate the 71st anniversary of the Nakba in Sidon’s Ain al-Hilweh Palestinian refugee camp.
“Even though I don’t belong to the [Nakba] generation, Palestine will not return unless our brothers take it back with rifles from the inside,” Ali Nasser, 23, said as he passed by on his bicycle.
The Nakba, or catastrophe, marks the expulsion of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians from their homeland during the war that surrounded the creation of the state of Israel in 1948.
To mark the anniversary, the walls across the camp’s neighborhood bore slogans such as “Revolution until victory,” “We are returning” and “The heroes of Hamas will bring back Palestine.”
Umm Walid, who said she fled during the Nakba, told The Daily Star she still remembered the day she and her family came to Lebanon from Palestine. “I am from [the northern Palestinian city of] Safed. ... The Israeli soldier was shooting at us while my father carried my little sister and I held my mother’s hand,” the elderly woman said.
“I hope I can return to Palestine, where I can still picture our house and my mother’s hanging clothesline,” Umm Walid added.
Many worried that international agreements aiming to resolve the conflict with Israel would forbid them from returning to their homes, especially U.S. President Donald Trump’s “deal of the century.”
“We fear being ignored and not having a solution for our return. We have been here for over 70 years. We do not want settlement. We want Palestine,” said Mahmoud Hourani, who took part in Tuesday’s commemorations.
The Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine held a ceremony facing the International Red Cross’ Ain al-Hilweh office to commemorate the anniversary.
The ceremony was attended by representatives from Lebanese political parties, Palestinian factions, popular committees, unions and committees from the camp’s neighborhoods and its residents.
It also featured signs and banners condemning Israel and calling for the right to return to Palestine.
“The commemoration of the Nakba by the Palestinian people is a clear message that they are holding onto their national rights,” said Fouad Othman, the Democratic Front’s Ain al-Hilweh chief.
Othman called on the Lebanese state to ensure justice for Palestinians living in the country.
He also called on popular movements to unite in light of U.S. decisions to cut funding for UNRWA, the United Nations agency for Palestine refugees. UNRWA faced a nearly crippling funding crisis in 2018 after the U.S. decided to cancel its aid contributions.
Ali Hussein, a 92-year-old from the Palestinian village of Hittin, joined the commemoration event wearing his keffiyeh, a symbol of the Palestinian resistance. “When the Zionists attacked our cities and villages in Palestine ... we fought until we ran out of ammunition,” he said. “But we never gave up.”
Nakba commemorations will continue throughout the week in the south Lebanon camp. - Writing by Sahar Houri