Palestinians across Europe are slated to hold a conference to mark 70 years of exile, in Milan, Italy on Sunday.
The conference, which is themed “70 years on … and we shall return”, is the 16th consecutive Palestinians in Europe Conference.
The 16 speakers scheduled to address the conference include academics, journalists, filmmakers, actors, prominent Christian and Muslim leaders and legislators from countries including Italy, Tunisia, Jordan and elsewhere.
Among the speakers are Nahela al-Waari, vice president of the Popular Conference for Palestinians Abroad, Italian legislator Stefano Vasiane, Jordanian parliamentarian Dima Dahboub, Ramallah-based priest Julio Brunila and others.
Billed as the largest gathering of Palestinians in Europe, the conference will include lectures, workshops, discussion panels, exhibits and cultural activities.
The Palestinians in Europe Conference is being organised by the Europe Palestinians Conference Organisation, the Palestinian Return Centre and the Palestine Coalition in Italy.
The conference will be held just two weeks before Nakba Day, which is commemorated each year on May 15 to mourn the displacement of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians from their homeland during Israel’s 1948 establishment.
Nakba is Arabic for “catastrophe”.
The event also comes at a time when Israel is enduring increasing criticism for its deadly response to unarmed protests on the border of the Gaza Strip, where nearly two million Palestinians live under a grueling blockade.
On March 30, Palestinians in the besieged coastal enclave launched a series of weekly Friday protests – dubbed “Great March of Return” – on Gaza’s border with southern Israel.
During the weekly demonstrations, Israeli forces have responded with live ammunition, killing at least 45 protesters and injuring some 5,000 people.
The demonstrations call for the implementation of Palestinians’ right to return to their homeland.
In December 1948, the United Nations General Assembly adopted Article 194, Article 11 of which recommends the return of displaced Palestinians to their homes “at the earliest practical date” or compensation for those who did not wish return.
Among those killed by Israeli forces were at least two journalists, 30-year-old Yaser Murtaja and 24-year-old Ahmad Abu Hussein.
Both were reportedly wearing press jackets at the time they were shot.
Nearly 70 percent of Gaza’s residents are registered as refugees.
Millions of Palestinians are scattered across the Middle East and elsewhere, barred by Israel from returning to their ancestral homeland.