Palestinians marching to remember those displaced at the time of the founding of Israel were dispersed by Israeli troops in the occupied West Bank and Gaza on Monday. Israeli troops used rubber bullets and a form of gas on the marchers, leaving several wounded.
Annual marches are held on May 15 to mark what Palestinians call the "Nakba," or catastrophe in Arabic. In the 1948 Nakba, mourned by Palestinians each May 15, more than 760,000 Palestinians fled or were driven from their homes in the war surrounding Israel's declaration of independence.
Israeli authorities have made it difficult for Palestinians to observe this day.
"I come every year to commemorate this anniversary, this catastrophe," said Salha Orabi, 62, a descendant of refugees and now a resident of the nearby Jelazoun refugee camp.
"The Nakba for us symbolises destruction," he added. "It is us who have left our homes and our land."
The refugees that fled during the 1948 war and their descendants now number around five million. Many live as refugees in Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, the occupied West Bank and the Gaza Strip, often in squalid camps.
At a checkpoint on the outskirts of Ramallah, dozens of Palestinian youths hurled rocks at Israeli soldiers, who responded with rubber bullets and the foul-smelling riot control spray known as skunk.
A Palestinian emergency worker said that 11 Palestinians were taken to the hospital, most of them wounded by rubber bullets. The extent of their injuries was not known.
In Gaza, dozens of youths marched holding flags and symbolic keys representing houses from which their ancestors fled in 1948.
TRT World’s Kisha Ferguson reports.
The anniversary came this year against the backdrop of a hunger strike by Palestinians in Israeli prisons, led by jailed leader Marwan Barghouti. Protesters said they also marched for more than one and a half thousand Palestinian political prisoners fighting for their freedom who have been on hunger strike for a month.
In what the Palestine Liberation Organisation said in a statement was a message from his solitary confinement cell, he said the fast, in its 29th day on Monday, would go on indefinitely.
"My oath and pledge to the prisoners and our people is to pursue the battle for freedom and dignity until it reaches its stated goals," he said.
For the Palestinians, the right to return to homes they fled or were forced to leave is a prerequisite for any peace agreement with Israel, but it is a demand the Jewish state has rejected.