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Thousands of Palestinians march for the 'right of return'

Thousands gathered at the village of Wadi Zobala for the right of return [AFP]

Date of publication: 13 May, 2016

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Thousands of Palestinian citizens of Israel took part in a rally to support the "right of return", while Israelis celebrated their country's founding in 1948.

Thousands of Palestinian citizens of Israel marched for the right of return for millions of Palestinians on Thursday, the same day Israel celebrated its independence.

Crowds carried Palestinian flags and signs baring the names of their villages, in addition to keys to houses they were forced out off at the rally in the Negev desert village of Wadi Zobala.

Organisers said they chose to hold the demonstration at this location to highlight Israeli plans to seize Arab lands in the area, and the state's discriminatory practices against local Bedouins.

Thousands of Bedouins live in "unrecognised" villages in the Negev.

The right to water and other services are severely limited for Bedouin communities, especially those living within unrecognised villages and towns, most of which are systematically destroyed by the Israeli military, citing their illegality as the reason.

Israeli Jews, in contrast, celebrated in public parties in two very different sets of reactions to the 68th anniversary of Israel's founding.

For Palestinians, the events of 1948 are seen as a Nakba - catastrophe in Arabic - as more than 760,000 Palestinians, estimated today to number about 5.5 million with their descendants, were driven from their homes.

The Nakba will be formerly marked on 15 May.

Marchers carried the slogan "On the anniversary of your independence, remember our Nakba."

For the Palestinians, the right of return to homes they fled or were forced out of is a prerequisite for any peace agreement with Israel, but it is a demand the Israel has rejected out of hand.

The annual "right of return rally" was started 19 years ago, and is held in a different historically Palestinian village every year to demand the right of its people to return home.

Thursday's rally concluded with protesters reciting a pledge not to relinquish their right of return under any circumstance, including political settlements and compensation.

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