Palestinian reconciliation to protect 'right of return': Hamas

Palestinian resistance group Hamas said Thursday that inter-Palestinian reconciliation will safeguard the right of Palestinian refugees to return to their ancestral homes

Palestinian resistance group Hamas said Thursday that inter-Palestinian reconciliation will safeguard the right of Palestinian refugees to return to their ancestral homes

GAZA CITY – Palestinian resistance group Hamas said Thursday that inter-Palestinian reconciliation – formalized by a deal signed last month – will safeguard the right of Palestinian refugees to return to their ancestral homes in what is now Israel.

"National unity… will help protect Palestinian rights, chief of which is the right of Palestinian refugees to return to their villages and cities," Hamas said in a statement marking the passing of 66 years since Israel's creation in 1948.

Last month, Hamas and the rival Fatah group hammered out a reconciliation deal in Gaza with the aim of healing the rifts that have marred their relations since 2007.

The deal calls for the formation of a national unity government until legislative elections are held in the occupied West Bank and the Hamas-run Gaza Strip.

Thousands of Palestinians on Thursday marked the passing of 66 years since the "Nakba" ("the catastrophe"), when hundreds of thousands of Palestinians were driven from their land to make way for the nascent state of Israel.

A 1947 U.N. General Assembly resolution stipulated the creation of independent Arab and Jewish states in what was then British-mandated Palestine.

Around 800,000 Palestinians were subsequently displaced and 500 Arab villages destroyed in attacks by armed Jewish groups at the time.

According to the U.N. Palestinian Refugees Agency (UNRWA), there are currently more than 5 million registered Palestinian refugees inside the occupied Palestinian territories, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon.

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