Packed like sardines and living under appalling conditions, Palestinians in Al-Shatí camp are a living example of Palestinians’ sufferings 57 years after their homeland was usurped by Zionists and the state of Israel declared on the rubble of Palestine, a sad chapter in Arab and Islamic history known as the Nakba Day.
The 800-square-meter camp is one of the poorest and most crowded in the Gaza Strip with no shinning sun, nor fresh air as houses are glued to one another and children unmistakably recognizable with their tattered clothes and anemic bodies.
Abdel-Rahman Al-Adal, 71, recalled how Zionist gangs stormed his village and killed his next of kin in cold blood.
“I was 14 when Jews attacked and imposed a tight blockade on Barir village on May 14, 1948, leaving us with no option but to flee or be massacred,” he told IslamOnline.net.
“They lined up my three cousins and many others of the village’s youths against the wall and shot them dead.”
Fighting back his tears, Al-Adal remembered how everything in his village was covered in blood.
“I saw hundreds of corpses lying on the streets and my father told me at the time that up to 110 villagers were slain by the Zionists.”
He recalled that despite the merciless attacks by the Zionists, the villagers displayed gallantry in defending their land till the last breath.
“When they took refuge in the neighboring village of Halikat the Zionist gangs stepped up attacks, and kept hunting them down from one village to another,” Al-Adal said.
On April 18, 1948, Palestinian Tiberius was captured by Menachem Begin's Irgun group, putting its 5,500 Palestinian residents in flight. On April 22, Haifa fell to the Zionist mobs and 70,000 Palestinians fled.
On April 25, Irgun began bombarding civilian sectors of the Palestinian city of Jaffa - the largest city in Palestine at that time, terrifying the 750,000 inhabitants into panicky flight.
On May 14, the day before the creation of Israel on the rubble of Palestine and bodies of the Palestinians, Jaffa completely surrendered to the much better-equipped Zionist gangs and only about 4,500 of its population remained.
Al-Adal can barely remember the faces of some of his relatives as fled to neighboring countries, tent cities and refugee camps. Some of them have even disappeared for ever.
“My family and I moved along with other refugees to Gaza’s Al-Shujaiya district, then Al-Nuseirat tent city and finally we settled at Al-Shatí refugee camp.”
On the life in the camp, Al-Adal said it is a mixture of bitterness and suffering.
“With undrinkable water and persistent power outages, we truly live under appalling conditions in the camp,” he lamented.
The camp accommodated in 1949 some 23,000 refugees but is now home to 78,000, according to UNRWA estimates.
Like thousands of Palestinian refugees across the globe, Hadia Salem, a 73-year-old camp resident, has been dreaming of returning home.
“Now our lives are getting from worse to worst in Al-Shatí camp,” she told IOL.
“I still remember how I used to go with my father to reap wheat fields in our village when I was 16.
“All of a sudden, my life turned upside down when the Zionists attacked our home, killed my father, devastated our land and marauded our property,” she recalled.
Salem, who lost all her family members to Zionist attacks, is sure that one day she will return home.
“If I don’t, my grandchildren will sure do,” she said emphatically.
Palestinian refugees in the Gaza Strip are estimated at 878,000, living in eight refugee camps: Jabaliya, Rafah, Al-Shatí, Al-Nuseirat, Al-Boureij, Khan Yunis, Al-Maghazi and Deir Al-Balah.
Last year, Al-Aqsa Society for the Reconstruction of Islamic Shrines (ASRIS) warned in a report that an Israeli plan called “Tamam-6” was aimed at obliterating the Islamic and Arab character of Palestinian villages occupied in 1948 by marking out mosques, tombs and historical sites.
The scheme will see new parks, bridges, roads and sewerage system running deep into many Islamic and Arab historical sites.
In a counter effort, the first Palestinian atlas was recently launched to document for the generations to come territories usurped and occupied by Israeli troops and keep the cause vivid.
Up to 50,000 maps charting Palestinian sites that date back to 1799 are found in the English-language geographical encyclopedia.