Sunday, February 8, 2009

Gaza Tent Camps Stir Memories of Past Exile

Agence France Presse (via Naharnet), February 8, 2009 - Majid Asamna lived in a refugee tent in Gaza after fleeing what became Israel in 1948 -- now a new war has left him homeless again, along with tens of thousands of other Palestinians.

The homes of some 30,000 Palestinians were destroyed during last month's devastating 22-day Israeli onslaught, which killed more than 1,330 people and carved a vast swath of destruction across the besieged territory.

In recent days Gaza's Hamas-run government has partnered with international aid groups and local charities to erect hundreds of tents in the most devastated areas, a sight that stirs deep memories for Gaza's 1948 refugees.

"I thought if I left I might never return, just like in 1948. And when I did come back, after the war, everything was destroyed," Asamna, 65, says as he surveys the sprawling ruins of six family houses crushed by Israeli troops.

"I'll never go back to(the Israeli town of)Ashkelon, and my children may never come back to this place. When they come in and kill people like this they make it impossible for anyone to live here."

Israel said the offensive was aimed at halting Palestinian rocket fire on towns and farms near the Gaza border -- including Ashkelon -- which have killed 21 civilians inside Israel since 2000.

But for Palestinians the war was the latest chapter in a tragedy that began 60 years ago, one in which bleak rows of tents are a recurring motif.

More than two-thirds of Gaza's 1.5 million residents are UN-registered refugees descended from the hundreds of thousands of Palestinians who fled or were expelled from what is now Israel in the 1948 war.

Palestinian and some Israeli scholars have said Jewish militias expelled more than 700,000 Palestinians before and during the war that followed the creation of the Jewish state in a deliberate campaign of ethnic cleansing.

Palestinians refer to the expulsion as the Nakba, or catastrophe....

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