Bethlehem today marked al Nakba with a march through the town centre and speeches by local organisers and youth.The march was well attended by local school students; schools shut early to mark the occasion and the event attracted well over 1,000 participants. Student marching bands played drums and chanted as they walked through the town. Banners reading “no peace without return to our homes” were also paraded by local youth. Young girls wore black t-shirts with the names of Palestinian towns destroyed during the Israeli war of independence.

Al Nakba, or “The Disaster,” is held the same day as the Israeli Independence Day. Palestinians mark the day as ‘the Disaster’ because of the mass expulsion of Palestinians from what is now Israel during Israel’s War of Independence in 1948 and the 1967 Arab-Israeli “Six Day War.”

The Israeli army has stepped up its presence in the West Bank for the commemoration, which will be marked over three days. In Israel, for the first time ever, this year it has been made illegal to commemorate al Nakba due to the new controversial “Nakba Law,” which was passed by the Israeli Knesset in March of this year.