Skip to main content

Gaza’s catastrophe on the 76th anniversary of the Nakba

Gaza’s ongoing catastrophe on the 76th anniversary of the Nakba mirrors the horrors of 1948
6 min read
16 May, 2024
On the 76th anniversary of the ongoing Nakba, Gaza’s people are living through a nightmare reminiscent of the horrors their grandparents went through in 1948.

On the 76th anniversary of the Nakba (the "Catastrophe"), Gaza's people are living through a nightmare tragically reminiscent of many of the horrors their ancestors endured in 1948 — when around 750,000 Palestinians were forcibly expelled from their homes to make way for the creation of the Israeli state.

For more than seven months, the 2.4 million inhabitants of the Gaza Strip have been subjected, to massacres, utter destruction, and repeated displacement – bringing to the minds of many what their grandparents would have gone through during the Palestinian Nakba in 1948.

Then, as now, they were left exposed to starvation, disease, and harsh weather conditions – but today practically nobody is even attempting to come to give them protection or save them.

Live Story

On the 76th anniversary of the Nakba, as the rate of displacement in Gaza rises to 95 percent, some recall how they used to commemorate this day before the current assault.

Some would take part in demonstrations, carrying the keys to their family homes, handed down to them by their grandparents, and papers proving their ownership of lands which the Israeli occupiers had stolen, and other belongings which they associated with the Nakba.

Even today, despite the savagery of Israel's current war, some have determinedly carried these keys, documents and treasured items from place to place as they have repeatedly been displaced.

Moreover, today, thousands dream of returning to the camps their grandparents lived in after the Nakba, though returning will be difficult, either because of the destruction or because the Israeli forces stand in the way.

Live Story

All the eight Palestinian refugee camps established by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) in the Gaza Strip have seen total or partial expulsion of their residents. The latest wave of departures was from the large Rafah camp, from which thousands fled last week following Israel's attacks.

Mohammed Jazzar was displaced from the Yibna Al-Shaboura camp in Rafah after Israel's bombing reached the vicinity of his home, and after those living in the camp his grandparents had lived in were threatened.

The camp is among the most deprived, with dilapidated houses that haven’t been renovated for decades, many of which still have rooves made from asbestos – but despite this, Jazzar yearns to return.

Jazzar, 40, lost many family members in Rafah and Khan Younis due to Israel's relentless bombardment, before he himself was forced to leave the house he had lived in since childhood. It is the same house in which his grandad, Amar Jazzar, had lived, before passing in 2004.

"My family's roots go back to the Yibna village, which was one of the largest villages in the district of occupied Ramla — between Jaffa and Al-Majdal," he tells Al-Araby Al-Jadeed, The New Arab's Arabic-language sister edition.

"I feel deep sadness at being forced to leave the home in which all my memories with my grandfather are, who took care of me when I was a child and from whom I have memorised stories of the Nakba."

Jazzar was displaced to the desolate al-Mawasi area west of Khan Younis, after Israeli forces demanded that Al-Shaboura camp's residents depart, two days after it had threatened residents in eastern Rafah, forcing them to flee.

However he has kept with him a document issued by the "All-Palestine Government", confirming his grandfather possessed six dunums in the north of Yibna village, and that they were farmlands in which wheat, barley, and seasonal vegetables were grown.

Live Story

"Our Nakba is ongoing, in light of the continuing abandonment, of which my grandad often talked to me before his death. We Palestinians no longer live dreaming [of a better future], we no longer expect anyone to come and defend us, or for an Arab army to intervene to protect us from the occupation," Jazzar says. 

"All the powers of the world stand behind Israel, as for us, justice is on our side, and this is what makes us strong, and patient. My grandfather didn't believe in peace with the occupation. He used to say that peace with the occupier meant relinquishing your rights, and he'd repeat this to me. If my grandfather were alive today, he would weep at our situation."

Displaced dream to return to the camps of their ancestors

Even before October 7, Gaza's people lived in dire conditions, especially in the refugee camps. The crises were intensifying with the continuation of Israel's suffocating siege.

This exacerbated the levels of unemployment and poverty in Gaza, as well as prevented urban construction due to a lack of materials. 

The displaced Palestinians have given Gaza's camps the names of their displaced villages. 

"My family's roots go back to the Batani al-Gharbi village, a few dozen kilometres from the Gaza Strip. We had a house of stone and I grew up dreaming of going back to that house. I heard so many stories about it from my grandfather, who would cry every time he spoke about returning before he passed away. He wanted to die in his home, in his village," says 38-year-old Muslih.

"We are living with the hope of returning to our homes that the occupation expelled our grandparents from. I may not return, but maybe my son will."

Live Story

Hussein Yassin (40) is currently living now in a tent his brothers put up in Deir al Balah camp. He confirms that he still has with him the rusty key to his grandfather's home, now on his seventh displacement during the current Israeli war. The key was passed down to him by his father who died in 2015, and he took it with him when he fled Al-Shati camp, near Gaza City, in a suitcase containing official papers and cash.

"My family are from the Al-Jura village, which was on the coast close to the sea near Majdal. I carry this key with me always, and I know that the door of my grandfather's house was wooden and painted black, my father saw the house when he was one of the labourers going into the occupied interior in 1980.

"However, he wasn't able to approach it because the occupation police prevented him from entering the area, where Zionist settlers had stolen our homes and land. Now, I don’t know if my grandfather's house still stands, but what I do know is that even if I am displaced to the farthest country, this key is proof of my right."

According to data from the International Red Cross, nearly 200,000 Palestinian refugees arrived in the Gaza Strip during the Nakba due to family ties, and because Gaza was on the road to Egypt, assuming it would be a temporary phase.

In the latest UNRWA statistics, the total number of displaced Palestinians is now over six million from an original number of nearly 750,000 refugees.

Among them, nearly 1,600,000 refugees are registered with UNRWA in the Gaza Strip, and they form over 65 percent of Gaza's inhabitants.

This is an edited translation from our Arabic edition. To read the original article click here.

Translated by Rose Chacko   

This article is taken from our Arabic sister publication, Al-Araby Al Jadeed and mirrors the source's original editorial guidelines and reporting policies. Any requests for correction or comment will be forwarded to the original authors and editors.

Have questions or comments? Email us at: