June 21, 2012 - 12:00am

GAZA, June 20 (Xinhua) -- Palestinian refugee Abdel Majid al- Mabhouh, 81, does not understand the ongoing complexities in politics, but only keeps in mind his right to return to his house and his village that he was forced to leave during the 1948 Arab- Israeli war with his family.

Al-Mabhouh, his parents and six brothers had been forced to leave their village Beit Tima, north of the Gaza Strip, during the war. They then lived temporarily under tough circumstances in a house of a relative in Gaza, and then they all moved to live in Jabalia refugee camp in northern Gaza Strip.

Jabalia is one of dozens of refugee camps established by the United Nations Relief and Work Agency (UNWA) in the Gaza Strip, the West Bank, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon. The Palestinians marked on Wednesday the 12th anniversary of UNRWA's approval of the International Day of Refugees.

Al-Mabhouh feels pain on this day as he has been living for 64 years in a refugee camp in the impoverished Gaza Strip, away from his land and house. However, he gets relieved when he recalls memories in the village and speaks about his properties amid hope that he will soon return there.

"I never lost hope to make my dream true. I have this dream in my mind for 64 years, and I always have a strong feeling that this dream will come true," al-Mabhouh told Xinhua, adding "I will never give up struggling for my right although six and a half decades had passed."

Winkles were clear on al-Mabhouh's face, and every winkle tells a story about his tragedies. He always sits down at the entrance of a narrow alley that leads to his house in Jabalia refugee camp, where children surrounds him and he starts telling them stories about how life was beautiful in Beit Tima.

The Palestinians calls the day they became refugees "al-Nakba Day," or catastrophe. They marked the International Day of Refugees and used the anniversary as a way to review their tragedies, issues and problems, especially focusing on how they keep the world attracted to their just cause.

"64 years ago, I was 16 years old. I still remember everything as if everything happened yesterday, when we left our house in Beit Tima, east of al-Majdal, or as Israel call it Ashkelon. I remember how we left during the hard times of the war as Jewish guerillas threatened to kills all of us," said al-Mabhouh.

He went on saying that hundreds of people left everything and escaped to the Gaza Strip. "I still remember that in the beginning of the war, I wasn't able to visit my relatives and we believed that the issue of return for us was a matter of few days and we would go back home. But it took us 64 years."

The old man kept talking about the experience of leaving the village in the heat of the summer in 1948, adding that he still remembers women and children walking on the hot sands. "Some families escaped from their homes and forgot their babies sleeping in their beds."

"After we arrived in Gaza, I never expected that we would remain alive. Now I live in Jabalia refugee camp, which is not so far from Beit Tima, it is only 30 kilometers far from here and still can smell it," al-Mabhouh said, adding "It is ridiculous, I live not far from my village and I can't visit it."

The UN General Assembly approved the Palestinian refugees' right of return in resolution number 194, which said "Refugees who want to return can return and live in peace with their neighbors and this has to be done as soon as possible. Compensations should be paid for lost of properties or damages."

However, the question of refugees and right of return has become one of the permanent status issues in the peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians. The Palestinians believe that this issue, which is the most important part to achieve just peace in the Middle East, has to be resolved.

"We had left everything behind and the only thing we have now just documents as a proof that we own the land," said the old man who is married to two wives, Fatima, 70 year-old, and Sou'ad, 67. They all live in one house together with their children and grandchildren.

Ahmed 34, al-Mabhouh youngest son, said as he was sitting beside his father in the refugee camp "I never lived in the pain and (was not) suffering that my father had passed through, but I heard and read accurately about our tragedies and I understood that we own properties of lands. It is our right and we will get it."

Ahmed is always busy taking care of his small family; however, he keeps in mind that one day his family will return back to their village they came from. "If my father dies, I will keep struggling for our right of return and I will educate my children never give up demanding for our legitimate rights."

Zakareya, an 11-year-old grandson of al-Mabhouh, said "I heard in the news about the International Day of Refugees and I understood from my grandfather that our family owns a house and a land in the village of Beit Tima and that our land used to be cultivated with vegetables and fruits."

The Palestinian Central Statistics Bureau said in a report issued on refugees' day that the number of Palestinian refugees registered by UNRWA had reached 5.1 million, adding that 17.1 percent live in the West Bank, 23.8 percent in Gaza, 40 percent in Jordan, and the rest in Syria and Lebanon.


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