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Palestinians Mark 'Nakba' or 'Catastrophe' of Israel's Creation

Thousands of Palestinians have briefly put aside bitter political differences to mourn the anniversary of Israel's creation.

Palestinians marched through the streets of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, marking the "Naqba" or "catastrophe" of Israel's creation in 1948. During Israel's War of Independence that year, some 700,000 Palestinians fled or were forced to leave their homes and became refugees.

The demonstrators carried big keys, symbolizing the so-called "right of return," a pillar of Palestinian nationalism. The Palestinians demand that refugees and their descendants be allowed to return to their former homes in Israel.

Israeli Arabs also joined the demonstrations. Raed Salah, the leader of the Islamic Movement in Israel, told a rally that Palestinians will return with their keys to open the doors of their former homes.

Salah said refugees would return to areas, which are now part of the State of Israel, including Galilee, Haifa, Acre and Jaffa.

The right of return has been one of the biggest stumbling blocks in nearly 20 years of Israeli-Palestinian negotiations and is likely to pose further obstacles in new peace talks that began a week ago. All Israeli governments, both left and right, have categorically rejected the right of return. Israel believes that flooding the Jewish state with hundreds of thousands of potentially hostile Palestinian refugees would be national suicide.