Palestinian demonstrators run for cover from tear gas canisters fired by Israeli forces during a protest marking the 71st anniversary of the 'Nakba', or catastrophe, near the Israel-Gaza border fence, east of Gaza City, May 15, 2019.
Palestinian demonstrators run for cover from tear gas canisters fired by Israeli forces during a protest marking the 71st anniversary of the 'Nakba', or catastrophe, near the Israel-Gaza border fence, east of Gaza City, May 15, 2019.

Palestinians on Wednesday marked the 71st anniversary of their mass displacement during the 1948 war around Israel's creation with protests across the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

Thousands of people streamed to the Gaza-Israel frontier as the militant Hamas group, which controls Gaza, announced a general strike, closing schools and public institutions to allow for a large turnout.
 
For a year, Hamas has staged protests every Friday along the perimeter fence dividing Israel and Gaza, demanding an end to an Israeli-Egyptian blockade.
 
More than 60 Palestinians were killed at last year's demonstration, which coincided with the opening of the new U.S. Embassy in contested Jerusalem.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during an event marking one year since the US embassy moved to Jerusalem on May 14, 2019.
Jerusalem Embassy Anniversary Marked with Trump Tweet, Arab Silence
U.S. President Donald Trump said Tuesday the transfer of the U.S. embassy in Israel to Jerusalem a year ago was the fulfillment of a key promise of his election campaign.Today marks the one-year anniversary of the opening of the United States Embassy in Jerusalem, Israel. Our beautiful embassy stands as a proud reminder of our strong relationship with Israel and of the importance of keeping a promise and standing for the truth.— Donald J.

This year's demonstration, however, comes two weeks after a cease-fire was reached to end a fierce two-day round of fighting. A Qatari envoy, who has been helping mediate the cease-fire, has urged Hamas to keep Wednesday's demonstration restrained.
 
The demonstrations were marking what is known as the "nakba," or "catastrophe," in which hundreds of thousands of Palestinians fled or were forced from their homes during the war surrounding Israel's establishment. Today, there are an estimated 5 million Palestinian refugees across the Middle East.
 
The fate of the refugees is one of the core issues of dispute between Israel and the Palestinians. Israel rejects demands for a mass return of refugees to long-lost homes, saying it would threaten the country's Jewish character.
 
In the West Bank city of Ramallah, hundreds of people marched from the grave of the late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat to a rally downtown, demanding the right to return to lost properties in what is now Israel.

"We will return, no matter how long it takes" read one of the signs.
 
Sirens also wailed across the West Bank at noon, and smaller demonstrations took place, in expressions of sadness.
 

 

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