Every year on May 15, Palestinians around the world celebrate the Nakba, or catastrophe, referring to the ethnic cleansing of Palestine in 1948.
Having secured the support of the British government for the creation of a Jewish state in Palestine, on May 14, 1948, as soon as the British Mandate expired, the Zionist forces declared the establishment of the State of Israel, triggering the first Arab-Israeli war. . .
Zionist military forces expelled at least 750,000 Palestinians from their homes and lands and captured 78 percent of historic Palestine. The remaining 22 percent was divided into what is now the occupied West Bank and the besieged Gaza Strip.
Fighting continued until January 1949 when an armistice agreement was forged between Israel and Egypt, Lebanon, Jordan, and Syria. The 1949 Armistice Line is also known as the Green Line and is the generally recognized boundary between Israel and the West Bank. The Green Line is also known as the (pre) 1967 borders, before Israel occupied the rest of Palestine during the June 1967 war.
Israel’s military occupation of Palestine remains at the core of this decades-long conflict that continues to shape every aspect of Palestinian life.
Mapping of the Palestinian villages that Israel destroyed
Between 1947 and 1949, Zionist military forces attacked major Palestinian cities and destroyed some 530 villages. Around 15,000 Palestinians were killed in a series of mass atrocities, including dozens of massacres.
On April 9, 1948, Zionist forces committed one of the most infamous massacres of the war in the town of Deir Yassin, on the western outskirts of Jerusalem. More than 110 men, women and children were killed by members of the Zionist Irgun and Stern Gang militias before the Israeli state.
Palestinian researcher Salman Abu Sitta documented detailed records of what happened to these 530 villages in his book: The Atlas of Palestine. Al Jazeera has digitized these records in the following interactive visualization:
Where are the Palestinian refugees today?
There are some six million registered Palestinian refugees living in at least 58 camps located in Palestine and neighboring countries.
The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) provides assistance and operates hundreds of schools and health facilities for at least 2.3 million Palestinian refugees in Jordan, 1.5 million refugees in Gaza, 870,000 refugees in the occupied West Bank, 570,000 refugees in Syria and 480,000 refugees in Lebanon.
The largest camps in each are Baqa’a in Jordan, Jabalia in Gaza, Jenin in the occupied West Bank, Yarmouk in Syria, E and El Hilweh in Lebanon.
More than 70 percent of Gaza residents are refugees. About 1.5 million refugees live in eight refugee camps around the Gaza Strip.
Under international law, refugees have the right to return to the homes and properties from which they were displaced. Many Palestinians still hope to return to Palestine.
The plight of Palestinian refugees is the world’s longest unresolved refugee problem.
Palestinian life under occupation
Israel’s military control over the Palestinian people affects every aspect of their lives, from what services they can access and where they can travel to who they can marry and where they can live.
Leading international NGO Human Rights Watch (HRW) says that Israel is “committing the crimes against humanity of apartheid and persecution against Palestinians.”
In a damning investigation, HRW documented a range of Israeli abuses, including extensive seizures of Palestinian land and property, unlawful killings, forced relocations, drastic restrictions on movement, administrative detention, and the denial of Palestinian citizenship.
Every year, Israel demolishes hundreds of Palestinian homes. According to data compiled by OCHA, between 2009 and 2022, Israeli forces demolished at least 8,413 Palestinian-owned structures, displacing at least 12,491 people.
Forced displacement is a violation of international law. Most of these structures (79 percent) are located in Area C of the occupied West Bank, which is under Israeli control. Twenty percent of these structures are in occupied East Jerusalem.
Israel also holds some 4,450 Palestinians, including 160 children, 32 women and 530 administrative detainees, in prisons.
On April 17 of each year, the Day of the Palestinian Prisoner is commemorated to highlight the plight of detainees in Israeli prisons and their struggle for freedom against Israeli occupation.
Israeli settlements grow
Israeli settlements are heavily fortified Jewish communities built illegally on Palestinian land.
Some 750,000 Israeli settlers live in at least 250 illegal settlements in the occupied West Bank and occupied East Jerusalem. Israeli settlements are illegal under international law.
Settler attacks on Palestinians and their property are frequent in the occupied West Bank and occupied East Jerusalem, home to some three million Palestinians.
The Israeli government has openly funded and built settlements for Israeli Jews to live in, offering incentives and subsidized housing. This has meant that the Israeli settler population in the occupied West Bank and occupied East Jerusalem is growing faster than the Israeli population in Israel.
Four deadly attacks in Gaza
The Gaza Strip has been under an Israeli air and sea blockade since 2007. Since 2008, Israel has waged four wars in the Palestinian territory, killing more than 4,000 people.
Bordered by Israel and Egypt on the Mediterranean coast, the Gaza Strip is approximately 365 square kilometers (141 square miles), similar in size to Cape Town, Detroit or Lucknow. It is one of the most densely populated areas in the world and, due to Israel’s continued occupation, has been described as “the world’s largest open-air prison”.
In their most recent bombardment of Gaza, which lasted from May 10 to 21, 2021, Israeli forces killed 261 people, including 67 children, and injured more than 2,200, according to the United Nations.
For Palestinians, the Nakba is not a historical event, it is an ongoing process of displacement that has never stopped.