Palestinians commemorate 74th Nakba Day, mourn slain journalist killed by Israeli forces

Palestinians commemorate 74th Nakba Day, mourn slain journalist killed by Israeli forces
Sunday marks the 74th anniversary of the 'Nakba' when Israeli forces drove hundreds of thousands of Palestinians from their homes to create the state of Israel.
3 min read
Thousands of people around the world gathered to commemorate the Nakba and protest against Israel's continuing oppression of the Palestinians [Getty]

Palestinians rallied on Sunday to mark the "Nakba," or catastrophe, 74 years after Israel's creation forced a mass exodus, with condemnation spreading over a brutal police raid on the funeral of a slain journalist.

The annual demonstrations across the occupied West Bank, annexed east Jerusalem and inside Israel came with tensions high over the killing of 51-year-old Al Jazeera reporter Shireen Abu Akleh.

The Palestinian-American was shot dead by Israeli forces on Wednesday during an Israeli raid in Jenin, a West Bank flashpoint.

Israeli police have claimed to investigate the chaos that marred the day of Abu Akleh's funeral, after television footage seen across the globe showed pallbearers struggling to stop the casket from toppling to the ground as baton-wielding police descended upon them, grabbing Palestinian flags.

The scenes on Friday sparked international condemnation, including from the United States, European Union and United Nations. Late South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu's foundation said Israeli police "attacking pallbearers" was "chillingly reminiscent of the brutality" seen at the funerals of anti-apartheid activists.

As Israel reopened following the Shabbat pause, local commentators joined the chorus lambasting the raid as Abu Akleh's coffin emerged from Jerusalem's St Joseph's hospital.

"The footage from Friday," wrote Oded Shalom in leading Israeli daily Yediot Ahronot, "documented a shocking display of unbridled brutality and violence".

"The Jerusalem District Police decided to come down like a tonne of bricks on anyone who dared to hold a Palestinian flag," Shalom wrote.

"As if holding up a flag - a mere piece of cloth, for God's sake - at a funeral procession for an hour or two could have had any impact whatsoever" on Israeli claims to control Jerusalem, he added.

Israel forbids public displays of Palestinian flags in Jerusalem and regularly cracks down when they are hoisted.

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett has yet to comment on the raid, avoiding the controversy in public remarks before his Sunday weekly cabinet meeting.

Al Jazeera on Sunday posthumously aired a piece produced by Abu Akleh on the Nakba, which marks Israel's 1948 declaration of independence.

Abu Akleh's posthumously aired piece retraced the fate of the Palestinian people since 1948, with a particular focus on refugees and the displaced.

More than 700,000 Palestinians fled or were forced from their homes during the conflict that surrounded Israel's creation.

There are now 5.7 million Palestinian refugees spread across the West Bank, Gaza Strip, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria, the UN says.

The Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics puts the global Palestinian population at 13.8 million.