Palestinians mark Nakba anniversary as thousands flee Rafah

Palestinians mark Nakba anniversary as thousands flee Rafah
The Nakba is being commemorated on Wednesday as Israeli attack across the Gaza Strip force new waves of Palestinian mass displacement.
12 min read

Tens of thousands of civilians fled the southern Gaza Strip city of Rafah as an expanded Israeli ground offensive looms, while Palestinians on Wednesday mark the anniversary of the Nakba or "catastrophe" of 1948.

Around 750,000 Palestinians were ethnically cleansed by Zionist militias in 1948 amid the creation of the Isralei state, with most taking refuge in the Gaza Strip, the West Bank, Jordan, Lebanon, and Syria.

Wednesday's commemoration of the Nakba comes as the Israeli war across the Gaza Strip forced new waves of Palestinian mass displacement.

Nearly 450,000 Palestinians have been displaced from Rafah since 6 May, and around 100,000 from northern Gaza, UN agencies said.

This means around a quarter of Gaza's population of 2.4 million people have been displaced again in about one week.

Featured image: Majdi Fathi/NurPhoto via Getty (13 May 2024)

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6:02 PM
The New Arab Staff

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Israel says Egypt denied request to open border to Gazans
5:37 PM
The New Arab Staff & Agencies

Israel said Wednesday that Egypt denied an Israeli request to open the border to Gazans.

Cairo has expressed its concerns that Israel is trying to expel Gaza's Palestinians towards Sinai.

Houthis say they targeted US warship, vessel 'Destiny'
4:55 PM
The New Arab Staff & Agencies

Yemen's Houthis said on Wednesday that they had targeted a US warship and a vessel called "Destiny" in the Red Sea, part of an ongoing campaign of attacks that the Iran-backed group says is designed to show solidarity with the Palestinians in Gaza.

In a televised speech, the Houthis' military spokesman Yahya Sarea said they had targeted an American destroyer called "Maysun" in the Red Sea with a number of "appropriate naval missiles".

Houthis targeted the vessel Destiny because it had been en route for the Israeli port of Eilat on 20 April, Sarea added.

Sarea did not specify the dates when the two ships were targeted. Reuters could not independently verify the Houthis' claim of having hit the two vessels.

Months of Houthi attacks in the Red Sea have disrupted global shipping, forcing firms to re-route to longer and more expensive journeys around southern Africa, and stoked fears that the Gaza war could destabilise the wider Middle East.

The United States and Britain have carried out strikes against Houthi targets in response to the attacks on shipping.


Israel's Gallant says opposes post-war 'control' over Gaza
4:39 PM
The New Arab Staff & Agencies

Israeli Defence Minister Yoav Gallant on Wednesday said he was opposed to Israel taking military or civilian responsibility for governance of the Gaza Strip after the ongoing war.

"I demanded to find a different alternative to Hamas for power in Gaza, but I did not receive any responses," Gallant said in a televised statement.

"I repeat and make it clear: I will not agree to the establishment of an Israeli military administration in Gaza; Israel must not have civilian control over the Gaza Strip."

Turkey to US: Israel's attack on Rafah unacceptable: source
3:12 PM
The New Arab Staff & Agencies

Turkish Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan told his US counterpart Antony Blinken in a call on Wednesday that Israel's attack on the Gazan city of Rafah is unacceptable, a Turkish diplomatic source said.

Fidan also told Blinken that it was important to achieve a ceasefire in Gaza as soon as possible, while emphasising that obstacles to the access of humanitarian aid into the enclave must be removed, the source said.


Blinken: Israel needs clear, concrete plan for Gaza future
2:57 PM
The New Arab Staff & Agencies

Israel needs a clear and concrete plan for the future of Gaza where it faces the potential for a power vacuum that could become filled by chaos, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Wednesday.

"We do not support and will not support an Israeli occupation. We also of course, do not support Hamas governance in Gaza... We've seen where that's led all too many times for the people of Gaza and for Israel. And we also can't have anarchy and a vacuum that's likely to be filled by chaos," Blinken said during a press conference in Kyiv.

The US top diplomat has held numerous talks with Israel's Arab neighbours on a post-war plan for Gaza.

But Israel says it intends to keep overall security control and has baulked at proposals for the Palestinian Authority, which governs with partial power in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, to take charge.

"It's imperative that Israel also do this work and focus on what the future can and must be," Blinken said.

"There needs to be a clear and concrete plan, and we look to Israel to come forward with its ideas."


Israel: Hamas elimination must for day-after Gaza governance
2:36 PM
The New Arab Staff

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Wednesday that eliminating Hamas in the Gaza Strip is necessary for any rise of alternative Palestinian governance there, as, he argued, leaving Hamas in place would pose a threat to potential successors.

In a video statement, Netanyahu also pushed back against Western criticism of Israel's military operation in the southern Gazan city of Rafah, saying: "The humanitarian catastrophe that was talked about hasn't materialised, nor will it materialise."


Gaza toll reaches 35,233 killed, 79,141 injured: ministry
1:49 PM
The New Arab Staff & Agencies

The Gaza health ministry said on Wednesday that Israel's seven-month war on the Palestinian enclave has killed at least 35,233 people.

The toll includes at least 60 deaths over the past 24 hours, a ministry statement said, adding that 79,141 people have been wounded in the Gaza Strip since the war began in October.

UK MP Apsana Begum calls for free, independent Palestine
1:25 PM
The New Arab Staff

British MP Apsana Begum calls for a free and independent Palestine in a social media post on Nakba Day.

"Today is 76 years since the Nakba, when hundreds of thousands of Palestinians were forcefully displaced by Israeli forces," the Labour Party lawmaker says on X.

"Decades on, Gaza is being indiscriminately bombed and the displacement continues.

"Today and [every day]: we must call for a free and independent Palestine."

Zarah Sultana says 'Nakba continues', so does solidarity
12:56 PM
The New Arab Staff

British MP Zarah Sultana says "the Nakba continues" in a social media post on the day Palestinians mark the ethnic cleansing their people suffered alongside the 1948 creation of the state of Israel.

"Today marks 76 years since the Nakba, when 750,000+ Palestinians were violently expelled from their homes," the Labour Party politician says on X.

"The Nakba continues: From the obliteration of Gaza, to rising attacks in the West Bank.

"And so our solidarity continues: We stand for a free Palestine, today and always."

Man killed by Israel troops after march marking Nakba
12:39 PM
The New Arab Staff & Agencies

Palestinian officials said Israeli troops killed a man on Wednesday after an occupied West Bank march commemorating the mass displacement of Palestinians in the Nakba of 1948.

"A young man was killed by occupation bullets at the northern entrance of the city of Al-Bireh," the Palestinian health ministry said.

The official Palestinian news agency Wafa reported the man killed was a 20-year-old student at Birzeit University.

The Israeli army did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Ireland to recognise Palestinian statehood in May, FM says
11:49 AM
The New Arab Staff & Agencies

Ireland is certain to recognise Palestinian statehood by the end of May, the country's foreign minister said on Wednesday, without specifying a date.

"We will be recognising the state of Palestine before the end of the month," Micheál Martin, who is also Ireland's deputy prime minister, told the Newstalk radio station.

In March, the leaders of Spain, Ireland, Slovakia and Malta said in a joint statement that they stand ready to recognise Palestinian statehood.

Last week, EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said Spain, Ireland and Slovenia planned to symbolically recognise a Palestinian state on 21 May, with others potentially following suit.

But Ireland's Martin shied on Wednesday from pinpointing a date.

"The specific date is still fluid because we're still in discussions with some countries in respect of a joint recognition of a Palestinian state," said Martin.

"It will become clear in the next few days as to the specific date but it certainly will be before the end of this month.

"I will look forward to consultations today with some foreign ministers in respect of the final specific detail of this."

Last month, during a visit to Dublin by Spanish premier Pedro Sanchez, Irish Prime Minister Simon Harris said the countries would coordinate the move together.

"When we move forward, we would like to do so with as many others as possible to lend weight to the decision and to send the strongest message," said Harris.

Palestine Action says dyes fountains red in UK's Birmingham
11:14 AM
The New Arab Staff

Palestine Action says it has dyed fountains red in the UK city of Birmingham.

The group adds on X that it "symbolises Britain's involvement in 76 years of ethnically cleansing Palestine".

Palestine Action says it dyed fountains red at Chamberlain and Victoria squares.

UK MP calls for Israel to 'end the genocide in Gaza'
10:58 AM
The New Arab Staff

British MP Claudia Webbe calls for Israel to "end the genocide in Gaza".

"It is not complicated," she says on X.

"Israel must end the genocide in Gaza, end the occupation and recognise the state of Palestine."

Nina Turner says Gaza not 'war' but 'genocide'
10:50 AM
The New Arab Staff

Nina Turner, former co-chair of US Senator Bernie Sanders' 2020 presidential campaign, says what's happening in Gaza is a genocide.

"It's not a war in Gaza, it's a genocide," she says on X.

Palestinians across Mideast mark Nakba with eyes on Gaza war
9:52 AM
The New Arab Staff & Agencies

Palestinians across the Middle East on Wednesday are marking the anniversary of the mass expulsion known as the Nakba with protests and other events across the region at a time of mounting concern over the humanitarian catastrophe in Gaza.

The Nakba, Arabic for "catastrophe", refers to the about 750,000 Palestinians who were ethnically cleansed from their homes alongside the 1948 creation of the Israeli state.

More than twice that number have been displaced within Gaza since the start of the latest war.

UN agencies say 550,000 people, nearly a quarter of Gaza's 2.3 million people, have been newly displaced in just the last week, as Israeli forces have pushed into the southern city of Rafah, along the border with Egypt, and reinvaded parts of northern Gaza.

"We lived through the Nakba not just once, but several times," said Umm Shadi Sheikh Khalil, who was displaced from Gaza City and now lives in a tent in the central Gaza town of Deir Al-Balah.

The refugees and their descendants number some six million and live in built-up refugee camps in Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, and the Israeli-occupied West Bank.

In Gaza, they are the majority of the population, with most families having relocated from what is now central and southern Israel.

EU urges Israel to end Rafah military op 'immediately'
9:17 AM
The New Arab Staff & Agencies

The European Union on Wednesday urged Israel to end its military operation in Gaza's Rafah "immediately", warning that a failure to do so would undermine ties with the bloc.

"Should Israel continue its military operation in Rafah, it would inevitably put a heavy strain on the EU's relationship with Israel," said the statement issued in the European Union's name by its foreign policy chief Josep Borrell.

WCK cooks meals at kitchen named after slain aid worker
8:43 AM
The New Arab Staff

Food relief group World Central Kitchen (WCK) has begun cooking meals at its third field kitchen in Gaza, named after an aid worker slain by Israeli forces.

"WCK's third field kitchen in Gaza cooked its first meals today," the group says on X.

"Named Damian's Kitchen, after one of our 7 heroes killed by the IDF [Israeli military], this central Gaza kitchen will help scale our efforts as families continue to flee from Rafah in desperate search of safety."

Israeli strikes killed seven WCK aid workers in April.

UN chief reiterates appeal for immediate Gaza ceasefire
8:34 AM
The New Arab Staff

The head of the United Nations has appealed for a ceasefire in the Gaza Strip and called for the Rafah border crossing with Gaza to be re-opened.

"I reiterate my appeal for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire in Gaza and for the release of all hostages," António Guterres says on social media platform X.

"I call for the Rafah crossing to be re-opened immediately and for… unimpeded humanitarian access throughout Gaza."

António Guterres is the head of the United Nations [FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP/Getty-archive]
Police clear pro-Palestinian camp from Swiss university
8:27 AM
The New Arab Staff & Agencies

Swiss police moved in early on Wednesday to remove dozens of pro-Palestinian student protesters holed up in the University of Bern, the school said in a statement.

Police acted following a request by the university's management, which had described the student occupation as "unacceptable".

The students were protesting against Israel's Gaza offensive.

The last of around 30 protesters left the Bern university early Wednesday.

They chanted pro-Palestinian slogans outside the building before leaving the area, a journalist from the Keystone-ATS agency said.

Dozens of demonstrators had been occupying university premises, including the restaurant, since Sunday night.

They were demanding an "academic boycott of Israel institutions" and had ignored a university ultimatum to leave the premises.

University rector Christian Leumann said in a statement published on Wednesday that he was open to talks but that "an occupation with politically motivated demands does not create an environment for constructive dialogue".

On Tuesday, police in Geneva removed around 50 pro-Palestinian protesters from a university there.

UN launches probe into first international staff killed
8:17 AM
The New Arab Staff & Agencies

The United Nations has launched an investigation into an unidentified strike on a UN car in Rafah on Monday that killed its first international staff in Gaza since 7 October, a spokesperson for the UN Secretary General said.

The staff member, a retired Indian Army officer named Waibhav Anil Kale, was working with the UN Department of Safety and Security and was on route to the European Hospital in Rafah along with a colleague, who was also injured in the attack.

UN Secretary General António Guterres's deputy spokesperson Farhan Haq said on Tuesday the UN has established a fact-finding panel to determine the responsibility for the attack.

"It’s very early in the investigation, and details of the incident are still being verified with the Israeli Defence Force," he said.

There are 71 international UN staff members in Gaza currently, he said.

In its only comment on the matter yet, India's mission to the UN confirmed Kale's identity on Tuesday, saying it was "deeply saddened" by his loss.