On Nov. 15, 1988, Yasser Arafat, then-Chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) proclaimed the Unilateral Declaration of Independence for the state of Palestine to a standing ovation.
This year marks 30 years since the declaration. In a statement, PLO Secretary-General Saeb Erekat said the mark of independence declaration "sums up the will and legitimate national aspirations of the Palestinian people in achieving independence."
He added that Palestine is pressing ahead with efforts "to hold Israel and war criminals accountable for all their violations until justice is served."
Palestine declared independence 40 years after Israel’s 1948 War of Independence, which Palestinians call Nakba, 'The Catastrophe’.
“By stages, the occupation of Palestine and parts of other Arab territories by Israeli forces… was achieved by organized terror,” says the declaration, written by Palestinian poet, Mahmoud Darwish. “Those Palestinians who remained, as a vestige subjugated in its homeland, were persecuted and forced to endure the destruction of their national life.”
More than half the Palestinian population, 1.38 million people, were forced off their land, unable to return despite a U.N. resolution mandating it. What has ensued is an endless battle for both parties to exist as Israel intensifies their occupation.
Hanan Ashrawi, PLO executive committee member, said that through its declaration of independence, "the Palestinian leadership proclaimed its support for the two-state solution, international law, and United Nations resolutions, as well as its unwavering commitment to the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people."
Palestinians have been unable to recover. Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) lockdown military checkpoints and brutalize Palestinians, while the Israeli government uses tactics like restricting water access to force negotiations.
The list of war crimes local and international human rights organizations have accused Israel of committing are ongoing as the occupation continues for decades. "We are determined to build the institutions of a civil, democratic state where all Palestinians live in equality and justice ..." Palestinian Government Spokesman Yousef Al-Mahmoud said.
The commemoration comes just days after Israel seemed intent on renewing the conflict with Palestinian resistance factions in Gaza after a botched military raid against a leader of the military wing of the Palestinian Islamic Resistance movement Hamas which resulted in the killing of multiple Palestinians and one Israeli soldier.
The raid was followed by a retaliation from Palestinian groups with the firing of locally-made rockets before Israel launched a massive airstrikes campaign on the Palestinian territory killing at least a dozen Palestinians. While many saw this as a possible attack on Gaza similar to that of the one in summer 2014, The Israeli government and Palestinian factions scored a ceasefire agreement brokered by the Egyptian government to avoid an escalation.
Gaza remains under a-dace -long Israeli military blockade which has thrown the enclave into a humanitarian crisis and has in recent months seen a pushback by Palestinians who have been organizing weekly marches and protests along the Israel-Gaza border since March to demand their right to return as refugees and children of refugees who were expelled from their lands after the founding of Israel.