RAMALLAH – Thousands of Palestinians took to the streets here on Sunday to participate in a rally marking the 63rd anniversary of the “Nakba” – the day Israel was created.

The demonstrators made an oath to continue the struggle to ensure the return of the refugees to their homes and vowed to make sacrifices to achieve their goal.

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The demonstrators chanted slogans calling for the “right of return” for all Palestinian refugees to their original homes inside Israel. They also unfurled black flags carrying the words, “There is no alternative to the right of return.”

The demonstrators also voiced support for the recent Hamas-Fatah reconciliation pact and urged the two parties to work together to achieve Palestinian rights.

The rally was one of several held in the West Bank under the auspices of the Palestinian Authority, whose leaders called on Palestinians to commemorate “Nakba Day” by staging marches and protests.

“We want to go back to our villages,” said Abed Abu Karma, a 76-year-old resident of Jelazoun refugee camp north of Ramallah. “My village is near the [Ben-Gurion] Airport and we still have the documents proving that we have lands there.”

Mohammed Elayan, coordinator of the Higher National Committee for Commemorating Nakba Day, expressed deep satisfaction with the large turnout for the Sunday’s events in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

“The Zionist conspiracies aimed at foiling today’s rallies have failed,” Elayan declared at the rally. “Israel won’t succeed in preventing our people from achieving the right of return.”

Amjad Abu Ayyash, another elderly man, showed up brandishing an old door key.

He said that the key was from the family house in Jaffa before 1948.

“We have no doubt that we will one day go back to Jaffa,” he said. “And if we don’t go back, our children will. It will happen one day.”

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PLO Executive Committee member Wasel Abu Yusef said that the “Nakba Day” rallies were proof that the Palestinians continue to adhere to the “right of return.”

The refugees’ “right to return is sacred and it won’t go away with the progression of time,” he said. He too accused Israel of seeking to thwart the Palestinians’ celebrations on “Nakba Day.”

At the same time that the rally was taking place, scores of Palestinians attacked IDF soldiers at the Kalandiya border crossing between Ramallah and Jerusalem with stones and gasoline bombs.

In the Gaza Strip, one Palestinian was killed and at least 80 others were wounded when thousands of Palestinians marched toward IDF troops at the Nahal Oz and Erez border crossings, sources in Gaza City said.

The sources said that the protesters marched through checkpoints set up by Hamas policemen, who were unable to stop them.

Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh said in a speech marking “Nakba Day” that the Palestinians would never give up the “right of return.”

Haniyeh said that there were now “changes” that would “lead to the collapse of the Zionist project in Palestine and victory for the program of the nation” – a reference to anti-government protests sweeping the Arab world.

He said that the “revolutions” in the Arab world would have a positive impact on the Palestinians and a negative effect on the “Zionist entity.” He also urged the Arabs and Muslims to provide the Palestinians with financial and military aid.

The Hamas leader reiterated his movement’s opposition to recognizing Israel’s right to exist in spite of the reconciliation agreement with Fatah.

“Victory is coming and so is the state,” he declared. “The refugees will return and occupation will end.”

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