Palestinian elder relives Nakba amid Israeli raids in West Bank

RAMALLAH, Palestine

In the narrow alleys of the al-Am’ari refugee camp near the West Bank city of Ramallah, 84-year-old Mohammed Khader’s voice trembles with the memories of Nakba.

“The camp is a witness to the Nakba. It’s a symbol until our return to our homeland,” Khader told Anadolu.

The Nakba, or Catastrophe in Arabic, is marked by the Palestinians on May 15 to remember the expulsion of hundreds of thousands from their homes and lands in 1948 after the founding of Israel.

Khader hails from the village of al-Na’ani in the central Ramla district in historical Palestine.

“I spent my entire childhood inside al-Am’ari camp, where we settled in 1949, and since then, I have not lived outside of it,” he said.

The elderly Palestinian said his father was killed by Israeli forces in 1951 along with seven of his friends near the village of Abu Shusha, west of Jerusalem, as they attempted to return home and retrieve their belongings left behind.

“My village was famous for watermelon and cantaloupe cultivation, with orange groves, artesian wells, a school, and a train station,” he recalled.

“People lived a simple life, the rich helped the poor, and the residents in the camp still possess the same qualities to this day.”

Khader said his family used to live in an independent rural house before the Nakba.

“Now, the family lives amidst a cluster of adjacent buildings in the camp,” he added.

Khader visited his village several times after the 1967 Middle East war, only to find it reduced to rubble, with only one house, a water well, and a mosque minaret remaining.

Death, persecution

Khader still remembers the scenes of Palestinians slaughtered by Israeli gangs in 1948.

“We left our homes amid attacks by Zionist gangs. We fled to the city of Ramla and then to Ramallah,” he recalled.

“On the way, I witnessed unforgettable scenes, including a woman being slaughtered,” the Palestinian elder said.

“We were stopped by a Zionist gang patrol, and three young men were taken out and two of them were killed in front of us,” he said.

“In the mosque of Dahmash in Lod near Ramla, 40 Palestinians were killed. I see all these events before me as if they happened yesterday.

“We walked for days without food or drink, we lived through difficult times. We found a child on the roadside, we carried him to Ramallah, and after days, his refugee family recognized him. All of this happened under pressure and killing by Zionist gangs.

“This all was done to expel people and prevent them from thinking about returning to their homes,” Khader said.

Right of return

Khader likened Israel’s brutal offensive on the Gaza Strip and settler attacks in the West Bank to the Nakba of 1948.

“During the Nakba, Britain supported the Israeli gangs, and today, the United States and European countries like Germany, France, and Britain support Israel.”

“We live a new Nakba every day.”

More than 35,100 Palestinians have been killed, the vast majority of whom have been women and children, and over 79,000 others injured in a deadly Israeli onslaught on Gaza since last October following a Hamas attack that killed nearly 1,200 people.

According to the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics, Israel has killed 134,000 Palestinians since the Nakba in 1948.

Nearly 1 million cases of detention have also been recorded since 1967, when Israel occupied the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, including East Jerusalem.

Khader says his home is repeatedly raided and searched by Israeli forces and his sons are detained. However, he still sees the al-Am’ari refugee camp as a symbol of his return one day to his home in Ramla.

“We can’t do without our country, where we were born, and one day we will return,” a determined Khader said.

“These lands can’t be inhabited by unjust Jews who have committed so much injustice.”

*Writing by Rania Abu Shamala

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