Every year on May 15, Palestinians around the world commemorate the Nakba, or catastrophe, referring to the ethnic cleansing of Palestine in 1948.
Having secured the British government’s support for the creation of a Jewish state in Palestine, on May 14, 1948, as soon as the British mandate expired, 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% of historic Palestine. The remaining 22% was divided into what is now the occupied West Bank and the besieged Gaza Strip.
Fighting continued until January 1949, when an armistice agreement between Israel and Egypt, Lebanon, Jordan and Syria was forged. The 1949 Armistice Line is also known as the Green Line and is the generally recognized border between Israel and the West Bank. The Green Line is also referred to 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 heart of this decades-long conflict that continues to shape every part of Palestinian life.
Mapping the Palestinian Villages Israel Destroyed
Between 1947 and 1949, Zionist military forces attacked major Palestinian cities and destroyed around 530 villages. Some 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 village of Deir Yassin, on the western outskirts of Jerusalem. More than 110 men, women and children were killed by members of the pre-Israeli Irgun and Stern Gang Zionist militias.
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 interactive preview below:
Where are the Palestinian refugees today?
There are around six million registered Palestinian refugees living in at least 58 camps located throughout Palestine and neighboring countries.
The largest camps include: Yarmouk in Syria, Ein El Hilweh in Lebanon, Jabalia in Gaza, Baqa’a in Jordan and the Jenin camp in the occupied West Bank.
More than 70 percent of Gaza’s 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 property from which they were displaced. Many Palestinians still hope to return to Palestine.
The plight of Palestinian refugees is the biggest unresolved refugee problem in the world.
The life of Palestinians 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, who they can marry and where they can live.
Leading international NGO Human Rights Watch (HRW) says 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 transfer, drastic restrictions on movement, administrative detention and denial of citizenship to Palestinians.
Every year, Israel destroys hundreds of Palestinian homes. According to data compiled by OCHA, between 2009 and 2022, at least 8,413 Palestinian-owned structures were demolished by Israeli forces, displacing at least 12,491 people.
Forced displacement is a violation of international law. Most of these structures (79%) are 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 about 4,450 Palestinians – including 160 children, 32 women and 530 administrative detainees – in prisons.
On 17 April each year, Palestinian Prisoner Day is celebrated to highlight the plight of those held in Israeli prisons and their struggle for freedom against the 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 a regular occurrence in the occupied West Bank and occupied East Jerusalem, home to some three million Palestinians.
The Israeli government openly financed and built settlements for Israeli Jews to live in, offering incentives and subsidized housing. This means that the population of Israeli settlers in the occupied West Bank and occupied East Jerusalem is growing faster than the Israeli population of Israel.
Four deadly attacks in Gaza
The Gaza Strip has been under Israeli air and sea blockade since 2007. Since 2008, Israel has fought four wars on Palestinian territory, killing more than 4,000 people.
Bordering Israel and Egypt on the Mediterranean coast, the Gaza Strip is about 365 square kilometers (141 sq mi), 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, it has been described as “the largest open-air prison in the world”.
In its most recent bombing of Gaza, which lasted from May 10 to 21, 2021, Israeli forces killed 261 people, including 67 children, and wounded more than 2,200, according to the United Nations.
For Palestinians, Nakba is not a historic event, it is an ongoing process of displacement that has never stopped.