Press Statement: As Israeli Genocide Goes Unabated in Gaza, Palestinian Return Centre Commemorates 76th Nakba Anniversary

Press Statement: As Israeli Genocide Goes Unabated in Gaza, Palestinian Return Centre Commemorates 76th Nakba Anniversary

As we commemorate Nakba Day, the Palestinian Return Centre (PRC) stands in solemn remembrance of the cataclysmic events of 1948, which forcibly displaced hundreds of thousands of Palestinians from their homes, leading to a persistent legacy of dispossession, suffering, and injustice.

The Nakba, or "catastrophe" in Arabic, marks a dark chapter in Palestinian history, where entire communities were uprooted, their lands confiscated, and their rights denied. Today, as we reflect on the aftermaths of the Nakba, we are reminded of the enduring plight of Palestinian refugees scattered across the world, yearning to return to their ancestral lands and reclaim their rights.

Approximately 700,000 Palestinians, constituting the majority of the population before and during the 1948 Arab-Israeli conflict, either fled or were displaced from their homes. Israel, upon its establishment, declined their right of return, fearing it would alter the demographic balance within its borders. Consequently, they became a sizable and enduring refugee community, now estimated at around six million individuals, predominantly residing in impoverished urban refugee camps in Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, and the Israeli-occupied West Bank. In the Gaza Strip, descendants of these refugees comprise about three-quarters of the population.

Seventy-six years on, the Nakba's echoes continue to reverberate throughout Palestine, nowhere more acutely felt than in the besieged Gaza Strip. Gaza, often described as an open-air prison, has endured decades of blockade, military aggression, and systematic oppression, perpetuated by Israeli authorities. The people of Gaza, already burdened by the scars of displacement and dispossession, face daily hardships exacerbated by the blockade, including severe shortages of essential resources, inadequate healthcare, and limited access to education and employment opportunities.

Furthermore, the ongoing Israeli onslaught on Gaza has only intensified the suffering of its inhabitants. The indiscriminate bombing campaigns, targeting civilian infrastructure and densely populated areas, have resulted in widespread devastation, loss of life, and untold human suffering.

Israeli relentless bombardment of the besieged coastal enclave of Gaza has claimed the lives of more than 35,000 people and left over 75,000 wounded, mostly children and women, making it by far the deadliest round of fighting in the history of the long conflict.

In Gaza, Palestinians are currently evacuating their homes amid Israel's renewed offensive, with cars, donkey carts, and pedestrians heading towards already overcrowded tent camps. Approximately 1.7 million Palestinians, constituting three-quarters of the enclave's besieged population, have been displaced, many of them experiencing multiple displacements. This surpasses by far the number displaced during and before the 1948 war.

Even if there is not a mass expulsion of Palestinians from Gaza, there is widespread concern that returning home may never be an option due to the extensive destruction inflicted upon the territory. The United Nations projects that rebuilding destroyed homes will extend until 2040.

Israel's military campaign in Gaza ranks among the deadliest and most destructive in recent history, involving the dropping of 900kg (2,000-pound) bombs on densely populated areas. Entire neighborhoods have been reduced to rubble, with roads torn apart and littered with unexploded ordnance. The World Bank estimates the damage at $18.5 billion, roughly equivalent to the entire Palestinian territory's GDP in 2022. These assessments were made in January, during the initial stages of Israel's ground operations in Khan Younis, prior to its military activities in Rafah.

On this Nakba Day, the Palestinian Return Centre reaffirms its unwavering commitment to the fundamental rights of the Palestinian people, including the right of return for refugees in accordance with UN Resolution 194.

We call upon the international community to uphold its obligations under international law, hold Israel accountable for its violations, speak out against the ongoing Gaza genocide, ensure civilians' access to humanitarian aid and medical assistance, and work towards a just and lasting solution that respects the rights and dignity of all Palestinians. Israel’s flagrant disregard for human rights and international law must be unequivocally and immediately brought to a halt to prevent further destruction and loss of innocent lives.

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