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Palestinian Ahmed Elaian, 86, shows the keys of his home in Israel, abandoned during the 1948 Mideast war, on the 57th anniversary of Al-Naqba. (AP photo)

Palestinians held parades and demonstrations Sunday to commemorate what they call Al-Naqba Day (Catastrophe Day), marking 57 years since the creation of the state of Israel and the displacement of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians.

Crowds in the West Bank city of Ramallah fell silent for two minutes as sirens were heard across the Palestinian territories.

People had travelled from across the territory for the rally in Al-Manar Square. They were there to hear President Mahmoud Abbas deliver the official speech from Japan, where he is on a visit.

He accused Israel of failing to live up to commitments it made under a ceasefire deal agreed to three months ago. He also called on Israel to free Palestinian prisoners, and to hand over control of more West Bank towns.

In his speech, Abbas stressed that peace between Israel and the Palestinans will not be possible until Palestinians have their own state with East Jerusalem as its capital.

He also reiterated Palestinian commitment to the controversial right of return – the right of Palestinian refugees and their descendants to go back to their original homes in what is now Israel. The Israeli government opposes this position.