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Palestinians in Malta mark Nakba

More than 700,000 Palestinian Arabs had fled their homes

Video: Chris Sant Fournier

Dozens of sombre Palestinians gathered to mark the 70th anniversary of the 1948 Palestinian exodus, also known as the Nakba on Tuesday evening.

The event coincided with rallies in Gaza for the funerals of scores of Palestinians killed by Israeli troops a day earlier.

Monday's violence on the border, which took place as the United States opened its new embassy in Jerusalem, was the bloodiest for Palestinians since the 2014 Gaza conflict.

The Nakba exodus had also cost countless lives and saw more than 700,000 Palestinian Arabs flee their homes during the 1948 Palestine war.

Between 400 and 600 Palestinian villages were sacked during the bloody conflict, while urban Palestine was almost entirely overrun.

Fadi Hanania, the charge d'affaires of the Palestinian Embassy in Malta, told those gathered at the Corinthia San Gorg Hotel, how successive Maltese governments had supported the “Palestinian cause”.

“We will continue our non-violent struggle for freedom,” he said, to applause from the Palestinian community in Malta.

The term “nakba” is often used as a reference to the period of war itself and events affecting Palestinians from December 1947 to January 1949.

While the exact number of refugees to leave their homes, many of whom settled in refugee camps in neighbouring states, is unknown, it is estimated that around 80 per cent of the Arab inhabitants of what became Israel left or were expelled.

Speaking at the gathering, former Foreign Affairs Minister George Vella said the Israeli-Palestinian issue was largely based on territory, each side claiming sovereignty on grounds of cultural, demographic, and historical ties to the land.

“The massive uprooting of the Palestinian population from their land between 1947 and 1949, was only one episode in a process which started many, many years before,” he said.

He expressed regret that, for Israeli leaders, the issue of Palestinian refugees and internally displaced people, was “never a problem to be solved, but a premeditated measure”.

In this situation, he said, the role of the UN Security Council was crucial and imperative.

“However faced with this particular issue over all these years, it has proven to be ineffective and impotent,” he said.

Speaking on behalf of the Nationalist Party, MP and former Home Affairs Minister Carm Mifsud Bonnici said Malta continued to support a two-state solution of the conflict.

The Foreign Ministry on Tuesday said Malta deeply regretted the escalation of violence in Gaza that resulted in considerable loss of life.

It encouraged all parties to act responsibly and exercise restraint for the situation to deescalate.

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