In Pictures: Land Day in Gaza

Images from the Gaza-Israel border, so far today, as Gazans march to mark the first anniversary of the Great March of Return 

Israeli forces shoot multiple tear gas canisters at a Palestinian woman with during the anniversary march of the "Great March of Return" and "Palestinian Land Day" protests at Israel-Gaza border located near Al Bureij Refugee Camp in Gaza City, Gaza on March 30, 2019 [Hassan Jedi / Anadolu Agency]

Israeli forces shoot multiple tear gas canisters at a Palestinian woman with during the anniversary march of the “Great March of Return” and “Palestinian Land Day” protests at Israel-Gaza border located near Al Bureij Refugee Camp in Gaza City, Gaza on March 30, 2019    

Large numbers of Palestinians marching on the Gaza-Israel border today, to take part in a one-million-man march to mark the first anniversary of the Great March of Return, which was launched on 30 March last year.

In the run-up to Saturday’s rallies, the Israeli army has deployed numerous tanks and armored vehicles along the buffer zone with the Gaza Strip.

On Thursday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reportedly instructed the army to prepare for the possibility of a “broad” campaign in Gaza.

Nearly 270 Palestinian demonstrators have been killed by Israeli army gunfire since Palestinians began holding regular demonstrations along the Gaza-Israel buffer zone in March of last year.

Demonstrators demand the right of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes in historical Palestine from which they were driven in 1948 to make way for the new state of Israel.

Palestinian Civil Defence members march towards the border…

Palestinian health and civil defence members prepare for the "Great March of Return" and "Palestinian Land Day" demonstrations at Israel-Gaza border located in eastern Rafah, Gaza on March 30, 2019 [Abed Rahim Khatib / Anadolu Agency] Gaza Medics
Palestinian health and civil defence members prepare for the "Great March of Return" and "Palestinian Land Day" demonstrations at Israel-Gaza border located in eastern Rafah, Gaza on March 30, 2019 [Abed Rahim Khatib / Anadolu Agency] Gaza Medics
Palestinian health and civil defence members prepare for the "Great March of Return" and "Palestinian Land Day" demonstrations at Israel-Gaza border located in eastern Rafah, Gaza on March 30, 2019 [Abed Rahim Khatib / Anadolu Agency] Gaza Medics
Palestinian health and civil defence members prepare for the "Great March of Return" and "Palestinian Land Day" demonstrations at Israel-Gaza border located in eastern Rafah, Gaza on March 30, 2019 [Abed Rahim Khatib / Anadolu Agency] Gaza Medics

While Israeli tanks, artillery and other military units amass at the other side of the border…

Israeli tanks and armoured vehicles are deployed to the Gaza Strip border ahead of the anniversary march of the "Great March of Return", in Sderot, Israel on March 29, 2019 [Faiz Abu Rmeleh / Anadolu Agency]
Israeli tanks and armoured vehicles are deployed to the Gaza Strip border ahead of the anniversary march of the "Great March of Return", in Sderot, Israel on March 29, 2019 [Faiz Abu Rmeleh / Anadolu Agency]
Israeli tanks and armoured vehicles are deployed to the Gaza Strip border ahead of the anniversary march of the "Great March of Return", in Sderot, Israel on March 29, 2019 [Faiz Abu Rmeleh / Anadolu Agency]
Israeli tanks and armoured vehicles are deployed to the Gaza Strip border ahead of the anniversary march of the "Great March of Return", in Sderot, Israel on March 29, 2019 [Faiz Abu Rmeleh / Anadolu Agency]
Israeli tanks and armoured vehicles are deployed to the Gaza Strip border ahead of the anniversary march of the "Great March of Return", in Sderot, Israel on March 29, 2019 [Faiz Abu Rmeleh / Anadolu Agency]

As the day progresses, more and more Gazans come out to the border…

Palestinians seen at the anniversary march of the "Great March of Return" and "Palestinian Land Day" protests at Israel-Gaza border on March 30, 2019 [Mohammad Asad / Middle East Monitor]
Ismail Haniyeh, senior political leader of Hamas, attends a rally at the anniversary march of the "Great March of Return" and "Palestinian Land Day" protests at Israel-Gaza border on March 30, 2019 [Motasem Dalloul / Middle East Monitor]
Palestinians seen at the anniversary march of the "Great March of Return" and "Palestinian Land Day" protests at Israel-Gaza border on March 30, 2019 [Mohammad Asad / Middle East Monitor]
Palestinians seen at the anniversary march of the "Great March of Return" and "Palestinian Land Day" protests at Israel-Gaza border on March 30, 2019 [Mohammad Asad / Middle East Monitor]
Palestinians seen at the anniversary march of the "Great March of Return" and "Palestinian Land Day" protests at Israel-Gaza border on March 30, 2019 [Mohammad Asad / Middle East Monitor]
Palestinians seen at the anniversary march of the "Great March of Return" and "Palestinian Land Day" protests at Israel-Gaza border on March 30, 2019 [Mohammad Asad / Middle East Monitor]
Palestinians seen at the anniversary march of the "Great March of Return" and "Palestinian Land Day" protests at Israel-Gaza border on March 30, 2019 [Mohammad Asad / Middle East Monitor]
Palestinians seen at the anniversary march of the "Great March of Return" and "Palestinian Land Day" protests at Israel-Gaza border on March 30, 2019 [Mohammad Asad / Middle East Monitor]
Palestinians seen at the anniversary march of the "Great March of Return" and "Palestinian Land Day" protests at Israel-Gaza border on March 30, 2019 [Mohammad Asad / Middle East Monitor]
Palestinians seen at the anniversary march of the "Great March of Return" and "Palestinian Land Day" protests at Israel-Gaza border on March 30, 2019 [Mohammad Asad / Middle East Monitor]
Palestinians seen at the anniversary march of the "Great March of Return" and "Palestinian Land Day" protests at Israel-Gaza border on March 30, 2019 [Mohammad Asad / Middle East Monitor]
Palestinians seen at the anniversary march of the "Great March of Return" and "Palestinian Land Day" protests at Israel-Gaza border on March 30, 2019 [Mohammad Asad / Middle East Monitor]
Ismail Haniyeh, senior political leader of Hamas, attends a rally at the anniversary march of the "Great March of Return" and "Palestinian Land Day" protests at Israel-Gaza border on March 30, 2019 [Motasem Dalloul / Middle East Monitor]
Palestinians gather to attend the anniversary march of the "Great March of Return" and "Palestinian Land Day" protests at Israel-Gaza border located in eastern Khan Yunis, Gaza on March 30, 2019 [Ashraf Amra / Anadolu Agency]
Palestinians seen at the anniversary march of the "Great March of Return" and "Palestinian Land Day" protests at Israel-Gaza border located near Al Bureij Refugee Camp in Gaza City, Gaza on March 30, 2019 [Hassan Jedi / Anadolu Agency]
An injured Palestinian is carried away during the anniversary march of the "Great March of Return" and "Palestinian Land Day" protests at Israel-Gaza border located near Al Bureij Refugee Camp in Gaza City, Gaza on March 30, 2019 [Hassan Jedi / Anadolu Agency]
Palestinians seen at the anniversary march of the "Great March of Return" and "Palestinian Land Day" protests at Israel-Gaza border located near Al Bureij Refugee Camp in Gaza City, Gaza on March 30, 2019 [Hassan Jedi / Anadolu Agency]
Palestinian medical staff treat a Palestinian, affected by tear gas, during the anniversary march of the "Great March of Return" and "Palestinian Land Day" protests at Israel-Gaza border located near Al Bureij Refugee Camp in Gaza City, Gaza on March 30, 2019 [Hassan Jedi / Anadolu Agency]
Israeli forces shoot multiple tear gas canisters at a Palestinian woman with during the anniversary march of the "Great March of Return" and "Palestinian Land Day" protests at Israel-Gaza border located near Al Bureij Refugee Camp in Gaza City, Gaza on March 30, 2019 [Hassan Jedi / Anadolu Agency]
Palestinians throw rocks in response to Israeli tear gas fire, at the anniversary march of the "Great March of Return" and "Palestinian Land Day" protests at Israel-Gaza border located near Al Bureij Refugee Camp in Gaza City, Gaza on March 30, 2019 [Hassan Jedi / Anadolu Agency]
Protesters gather to attend "Great March of Return" and "Palestinian Land Day" demonstrations at Israel-Gaza border located in eastern Khan Yunis, Gaza on March 30, 2019 [Ashraf Amra / Anadolu Agency]
Palestinians seen at the anniversary march of the "Great March of Return" and "Palestinian Land Day" protests at Israel-Gaza border located near Al Bureij Refugee Camp in Gaza City, Gaza on March 30, 2019 [Hassan Jedi / Anadolu Agency]
Palestinians seen at the anniversary march of the "Great March of Return" and "Palestinian Land Day" protests at Israel-Gaza border located near Al Bureij Refugee Camp in Gaza City, Gaza on March 30, 2019 [Hassan Jedi / Anadolu Agency]
Palestinians seen at the anniversary march of the "Great March of Return" and "Palestinian Land Day" protests at Israel-Gaza border located near Al Bureij Refugee Camp in Gaza City, Gaza on March 30, 2019 [Hassan Jedi / Anadolu Agency]
Palestinians seen at the anniversary march of the "Great March of Return" and "Palestinian Land Day" protests at Israel-Gaza border located near Al Bureij Refugee Camp in Gaza City, Gaza on March 30, 2019 [Hassan Jedi / Anadolu Agency]
Palestinians seen at the anniversary march of the "Great March of Return" and "Palestinian Land Day" protests at Israel-Gaza border on March 30, 2019 [Mohammad Asad / Middle East Monitor]
Ismail Haniyeh, senior political leader of Hamas, attends a rally at the anniversary march of the "Great March of Return" and "Palestinian Land Day" protests at Israel-Gaza border on March 30, 2019 [Motasem Dalloul / Middle East Monitor]

(Source / 30.03.2019) 

Losses Exceed $2 Million for Gaza in Latest Israeli Aggression

30 MAR7:09 AM

The Palestinian Ministry of Public Works and Housing in the Gaza Strip, on Thursday, said that the recent Israeli military aggression on the besieged enclave resulted in complete destruction of 30 houses and partial damage to 500 others.

Deputy minister Naji Sarhan announced, during a press conference, that the estimated losses following the Israeli shelling of homes and civil institutions over the past few days exceeded $2 million.

Sarhan accused the Israeli occupation army of deliberately using excessive force, which caused serious damage to residential buildings and civilian facilities. The destruction also affected the surrounding buildings, which led to the displacement of hundreds of Palestinian citizens.

Sarhan said that the Israeli military operation in Gaza, in November 2018, left 77 Palestinian houses completely destroyed and 1,170 partially damaged with losses estimated at $5.1 million.

According to the Ministry of Public Works, about 2,200 houses of the 12,000 completely destroyed, in the 2014 aggression and earlier attacks on Gaza, have not been reconstructed.

Moreover, some 60,000 partially damaged houses have not been provided with the necessary repair funds.

Sarhan said that the total funding required for the complete and partial damages is approximately $140 million, calling on the international community and the United Nations to put an end to the Israeli attacks on the blockaded Gaza Strip and to protect civilians and their homes.

He appealed to the Ramallah-based Palestinian Authority government to provide urgent funds to temporarily shelter the homeless families, and to contact donor countries to start reconstruction plans.

(Source / 30.03.2019) 

On 1st anniversary of Return and Breaking Siege March; PCHR Warns of Further Targeting of Civilians by Israeli forces

30 MAR1:35 PM

The Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR) follows up with deep concern the Israeli forces’ military reinforcements along the border fence with the Gaza Strip, coinciding with the Palestinians’ commemoration of the 1stanniversary of the Great March of Return and Breaking the Siege that will start on Saturday afternoon, 30 March 2019. PCHR is also concerned that these preparations would be a prelude to further killings of innocent civilians.

Israeli media reported that the Israeli forces had deployed three military brigades and an artillery battalion, and announced the deployment of 200 snipers along the border with the Gaza Strip.

This is reminiscent of similar preparations on the eve of the ourbtreak of Return March a year ago, preceded with systamtic incitement by the Israeli political and military echolones and giving direct orders to target the peaceful demonstrators, especially those who were described as “inciters.”

Raji Sourani, PCHR’s Director, commented on recruiting snipers, said, “The decision to deploy the snipers in itself was one of the most prominent evidence that we confirmed before and during the Return March.

He said that the deployment of snipers reflectd a decision to deal with demonstrators with fire and an intent to kill and injure as the sniper sees the target and is armed with the techonlgy which ascertains him the nature of the target: a child, woman, person with disability, Journalist or paramedic.

Despite all of this, the sniper shoots to kill or wound.  The decision to deploy 200 snipers is a further proof that the Israeli forces continue in the same approach to commit war crimes.”

Over one year, the Israeli forces violently dealt with the peaceful demonsrators and used lethal force against them in circumstances where no threat was posed to the life of the Israeli soldiers.

They fired live, explosive and rubber-caoted metal bullets in addition to teargas canisters.  Moroever, the Israeli forces deployed drones to open fire and even snipers to target demonstrators  directly either by killing or wounding them.

During the period from 30 March 2018 to 28 March 2019, the Israeli crimes against the demonstrators in the Great March of Return and Breaking the Siege resulted in the killing of 196 demonstrators, including 41 children and 2 women, and the injury of 11,427 civilians, including 2206 children and 344 women, in addition to injury of thousands with tear gas canisters.

Further, the injury of hundreds were reported serious, and 114 civilians had their limbs or parts of their limbs amputated.  Moroever, Among those killed, there were 8 persons with disabilities.

Moreover, the Israeli crimes affected jounralists and medical personnel though they were clearly marked as such while practicing their work in the Return March locations.  The Israeli forces killed 2 journalists and 3 members of the medical personnel in addition to wounding hundreds of them.

According to PCHR’s investigations, hundreds of civilians who were killed and wounded were shot by the Israeli snipers in a direct and deliberate attack against civilians, including Journalists and medical personnel who are protected under the Inetrntional law rules.  The Indeondent  Commission of Inquiry on the 2018 Gaza protests disapproved the targeting of the “inciters” as so-called by Israel  and considered such acts as unlawful.

PCHR recalls the report of the International Commission of Inquiry issued last February, which confirmed the findings of PCHR and other Palestinian and international human rights organizations, and considered that the violations of the Israeli forces may amount to war crimes or crimes against humanity.

PCHR reiterates Palestinians’ right to peaceful assembly to confront Israel and its forces’ denial of the legitimate and inalienable  rights of the Palestinian people, including the right to self-determination, right to return and right to end the occupation of the Palestinian territory.

(Source / 30.03.2019) 

Land Day: Israeli Soldiers Kill Three Palestinians, Injure 316, In Gaza

30 MAR8:22 PM

Israeli soldiers killed, Saturday, three Palestinians, and injured 316 others, including 14 who suffered life-threatening wounds, during protests across the perimeter fence, in the eastern parts of the Gaza Strip.

Hundreds of thousands of Palestinians gathered on lands near the perimeter fence, marking Palestinian Land Day, and the first anniversary since the beginning of the Great Return March.

Media sources in Gaza said that National Committee for Breaking the Siege has called for a million-person march, marking Land Day, and the first anniversary of the Great Return March, demanding lifting the siege on Gaza, the internationally-guaranteed Right of Return, the liberation of Palestine and independence.

On Saturday evening, the Health Ministry in Gaza said the soldiers killed Tamer Hashem Abu al-Kheir, 17, after shooting him with a live round in the chest, east of Khan Younis, in the southern part of the coastal region.

His death came just hours after the soldiers killed Adham Nidal ‘Amara, 17, who was fatally shot during the processions east of Gaza city.

On Friday morning, the soldiers killed Mohammad Jihad Sa’ad, 20, east of Gaza city, before the Great Return March processions started.

Among the injured Palestinians are three medics and six journalists, while the soldiers also caused damage to three ambulances.

In its latest report, the Health Ministry in Gaza said:

Deaths:

  1. Mohammad Jihad Sa’ad, 20.
  2. Adham Nidal ‘Amara, 17.
  3. Tamer Hashem Abu al-Kheir, 17.

Injuries: The soldiers shot 316:

  1. Five Palestinians suffered critical wounds.
  2. Nine Palestinians suffered serious wounds.
  3. 121 suffered moderate wounds.
  4. 184 suffered mild wounds.

Cause of injuries:

  1. 64 Palestinians were shot with live fire.
  2. 16 were shot with rubber-coated steel bullets.
  3. 13 were injured by shrapnel from bullets.
  4. 46 suffered the effects of teargas inhalation.
  5. 94 were injured by shrapnel from gas bombs.
  6. 83 suffered cuts and bruises.

The area of injury in the body:

  1. 64 suffered head and neck injuries.
  2. 55 injured in the upper limbs.
  3. 16 suffered chest and back injuries.
  4. 18 injured in the Pelvis and abdomen.
  5. 125 injured in the lower limbs.
  6. 64 teargas inhalations.
  7. 4 suffered injuries to various parts of the body.

Injuries by governorate:

  1. 39 in the northern parts of the Gaza Strip.
  2. 108 in Gaza city area.
  3. 73 in central Gaza.
  4. 41 in Khan Younis, southern Gaza Strip.
  5. 55 in Rafah, southern Gaza Strip.

(Source / 30.03.2019) 

IOF shot dead Palestinian in the head on the 1st anniversary of the Great Return March

GAZA, PALESTINOW.COM — A 20-year-old Palestinian young man was killed Saturday morning by the Israeli occupation forces east of Gaza city.

Palestine’s Ministry of Health announced today the martyrdom of Mohammed Jihad Saa’d by an Israeli bullet in the head on Gaza’s eastern borders.

Hundreds of Palestinians in Gaza Strip have begun since the early morning marching towards the borders between the besieged enclave and the occupied territories to commemorate Land Day and the first anniversary of the Return Marches.

(Source / 30.03.2019) 

Heavy clashes between Palestinian youths and IOF in Gaza and WB

Ten Palestinian protesters were reportedly shot by Israeli soldiers during confrontations erupted near the separation barrier eastern Gaza strip on Friday.

The Palestinian ministry of health said that six protesters has different injuries, while a seventh was shot in his abdomen.

On the other side of occupied Palestine, one Palestinian was shot with Ruger ammunition while dozens were suffocated by tear gas during an Israeli suppression of a peaceful protest, which started after Friday prayer in Ramallah remembering the 43rd anniversary of the Palestinian Land Day.

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Israeli occupation soldiers also suppressed a weekly peaceful protest in Kafer Qaddoum in Qalqilyah. Coordinator of the popular resistance in the village, Murad Ishtewi, said that a large number of Israeli soldiers attacked the protesters with rubber-coated bullets and stun grenades, while protesters confronted throwing stones and empty bottles back.

In Nablus, Israeli forces suppressed another peaceful protest, and threw tear gas grenades at the protesters.

(Source / 30.03.2019) 

IOF Injures 10 Palestinians Near Gaza Border

[Photos File]

A number of Palestinian citizens were injured on Friday when the Israeli occupation forces (IOF) opened fire at peaceful protesters demonstrating in the Great March of Return on Gaza border. 

The Ministry of Health said that 10 Palestinians were injured by IOF gunfire east of the Gaza Strip. 

A mass demonstration is set to be launched along the border between the Gaza Strip and the 1948 occupied Palestinian territories on Saturday, 30 March, to mark the anniversary of the Great March of Return after a year in which the Israeli occupation army have shot thousands of protesters. 

The anniversary comes at a time of heightened tensions between the Israeli occupation and Palestinian resistance groups in the Gaza Strip.

(Source / 30.03.2019) 

‘We’re Not Leaving’: Gaza Marks Great March Of Return Anniversary

Israeli forces use live rounds and tear gas on tens of thousands of protesters at Gaza fence, killing 17-year-old boy.

Tens of thousands of Palestinians have rallied at the Israel-Gaza fence to mark the first anniversary of the Great March of Return protests, facing off against Israeli tanks and troops massed on the fortified perimeter. 

Israeli forces on Saturday used live rounds, rubber bullets and tear gas on the protesters, killing two 17-year-old boys, and wounding at least 207 people, according to Gaza’s health ministry.

Tamer Aby el-Khair was shot in the chest east of Khan Yunis in southern Gaza and died at the hospital, the ministry said, while the second teen, Adham Amara, died after being shot in the face east of Gaza City.  

A third Palestinian was killed in an overnight demonstration ahead of the main protest. 

Palestinians are demanding the right to return to lands from which their families were violently expelled during the founding of Israel in 1948. They are also calling for an end to Israel’s and Egypt‘s 12-year blockade of Gaza.

“We will move towards the borders even if we die,” said Yusef Ziyada, 21, his face painted in the colours of the Palestinian flag. “We are not leaving. We are returning to our land.”

Despite heavy rain, some 40,000 people were gathered at the frontier area, the Israeli army said.

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‘Children killed’

For the past year, the Israel-Gaza fence has been the scene of mass protests and major bloodshed in which more than 260 Palestinians were killed, mostly by Israeli sniper fire. Nearly 7,000 others were shot and wounded, according to Gaza’s health ministry.

Save the Children, a rights group, said those killed include 50 children. Another 21 children had their limbs amputated and many more have been permanently disabled, said the group’s regional director, Jeremy Stoner. 

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Expressing deep concern over the Palestinian teen’s death on Thursday, Stoner said: “We fear that more children could be injured or killed today.”

Hamas-Israel truce?

The anniversary of the Great March of Return comes only days after another severe flare-up of violence between Israel and Hamas, which rules Gaza. Egypt has sought to mediate between the two parties in a bid to rein in violence and avoid the sort of deadly response from the Israeli military that has accompanied past protests.

Al Jazeera’s Harry Fawcett, citing the Hamas-affiliated al-Risalah newspaper, said the group had reached a deal with Israel to reduce tensions in the Gaza Strip. 

“The Israeli concessions, according to the al-Risalah newspaper, include increasing Qatari funding from $15m to $40m a month to pay salaries; extending the fishing zone from nine to 12 nautical miles; increasing the electricity supply from Israel into Gaza; and approving a major desalination project,” Fawcett said, reporting from an area east of Gaza City. 

“In return, Israel has been seeking an end to rocket fire, such as that which destroyed a family home north of Tel Aviv on Monday, injuring seven and sparking a new round of escalation.”

Meanwhile, on the eve of the anniversary protests, organisers issued instructions to demonstrators telling them to stay back from Israeli guns, follow commands of organisers on the ground, refrain from aggressive actions and not to burn tyres, a move seen as a sign that the Egyptian-brokered deal may be adhered to.

Hamas security officers at the scene of the protest were seen wearing military uniforms for the first time, as they picked up tyres and took them away.

“It looks as if they are here to enforce the deal, to make sure that no one sets these tires alight,” Fawcett said.

Israel, which has sent extra troops and tanks to the border, also wants an end to incendiary balloon launches, and a guarantee of calm at the fence.

There was no Israeli comment on the alleged agreement.

‘How many years before our lives improve?’

The Great March of Return protests began on March 30 last year after civil society groups in Gaza called for action against the crippling 12-year blockade on the enclave. 

Humanitarian agencies blame the blockade for impoverishment in Gaza, where poverty and unemployment rates are high. According to the United Nations, more than 90 percent of water is unsafe for drinking, while Gaza’s two million residents receive less than 12 hours of mains electricity a day. 

March 30 also marks Land Day – the annual commemoration of the deaths of six Palestinians in 1976, who protested the confiscation of their land to build Jewish communities.

“In a year I will finish school. My father is unemployed so I will be unable to go to university. Who is responsible? Israel,” said 16-year-old protester Mohammed Ali.

“I don’t know how many years will pass before our lives improve but we should continue [protests] as long as the occupation and the blockade exist,” he told Reuters news agency. 

Israel’s use of lethal force against protesters has drawn censure from the UN and rights groups. 

Hamas security officers at the scene of the protest were seen wearing military uniforms for the first time, as they picked up tyres and took them away.

“It looks as if they are here to enforce the deal, to make sure that no one sets these tires alight,” Fawcett said.

Israel, which has sent extra troops and tanks to the border, also wants an end to incendiary balloon launches, and a guarantee of calm at the fence.

There was no Israeli comment on the alleged agreement.

‘How many years before our lives improve?’

The Great March of Return protests began on March 30 last year after civil society groups in Gaza called for action against the crippling 12-year blockade on the enclave. 

Humanitarian agencies blame the blockade for impoverishment in Gaza, where poverty and unemployment rates are high. According to the United Nations, more than 90 percent of water is unsafe for drinking, while Gaza’s two million residents receive less than 12 hours of mains electricity a day. 

March 30 also marks Land Day – the annual commemoration of the deaths of six Palestinians in 1976, who protested the confiscation of their land to build Jewish communities.

“In a year I will finish school. My father is unemployed so I will be unable to go to university. Who is responsible? Israel,” said 16-year-old protester Mohammed Ali.

“I don’t know how many years will pass before our lives improve but we should continue [protests] as long as the occupation and the blockade exist,” he told Reuters news agency. 

Israel’s use of lethal force against protesters has drawn censure from the UN and rights groups. 

Meanwhile, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been trying to balance projecting military strength with seeking de-escalation before Israel’s general election on April 9.

“All Israelis should know that if a comprehensive campaign is required, we will enter it strongly and safely, and after we have exhausted all of the other options,” Netanyahu said.

Hamas is also under domestic political pressure.

Earlier this month, protesters took to the streets instead of the border over price rises and tax hikes. Hamas security put the demonstrations down with beatings and arrests.

At the core of those protests were the same feelings of frustration that, for a year now, have brought thousands to the border, week after week.

(Source / 30.03.2019) 

On one-year anniversary of “Great March of Return”, MAP warns urgent international action needed to protect lives

On the one-year anniversary of the “Great March of Return” demonstrations, Medical Aid for Palestinians (MAP) warns that urgent international action is needed to protect lives and prevent the further collapse of Gaza’s health system.

One year ago, Friday 30 March 2018, the “Great March of Return” began in Gaza. Initially intended to last for six weeks, but continuing today, this series of widespread civil society-organised demonstrations in Gaza demands the realisation of Palestinians’ rights, including the return for Palestinian refugees displaced between 1947-9 and the lifting of Israel’s unlawful closure.

Ahead of the first day of the protests, Israeli security forces positioned more than 100 snipers on the perimeter fence with Gaza. That day alone 15 Palestinians were killed and 1,416 injured.

Since then, Israel’s shocking – and often lethal – use of force against protestors has continued. Over the past year, over 260 Palestinians have been killed and more than 29,000 injured. More than 7,000 people have been shot with live ammunition, causing devastating injuries, particularly to lower limbs. Among the casualties have been medical first-responders. Three health workers have been killed and more than 600 injured by Israeli forces while working to save lives in Gaza. MAP celebrates the steadfastness and resolve of Gaza’s medics and is outraged that their safety has been endangered as they carry out their vital humanitarian functions.

Injured protestors in Gaza have entered a health system that the World Health Organization described as being “on the brink of collapse” even before the protests began, beset by shortages of vital medicines and equipment, as well as electricity and fuel to keep hospital generators running.

MAP has been working to support the development of local services to treat complex limb injuries in Gaza since 2013. When the protests began last year, MAP was one of the first organisations to respond, and has provided essential medical supplies including out-of-stock medicines, disposables and over £1 million of equipment for orthopaedic surgery. Along with our partners IDEALS, we have sent seven missions of expert surgeons and rehabilitation specialists from the UK to Gaza to help treat the wounded and train local teams. In 2018, these local and international teams undertook more than 100 surgeries to repair some of the most severe injuries and supported more than 540 patients with complex limb injuries in outpatient clinics.

The past year has been devastating for people’s lives and healthcare in Gaza. The mass casualties have occurred in the context of a health system that was already buckling under the pressure of 12 years of illegal closure and decades of de-development,” said MAP CEO Aimee Shalan.

In light of the deterioration of the security situation in Gaza this week and the mass demonstration expected on Saturday to mark the one-year anniversary of the “Great March of Return”, MAP is gravely concerned for the safety of civilians in Gaza. In preparation, our team in Gaza has released 21 essential medicines, 16 disposables, and 3 blood bank items worth over £27,000 to Gaza’s hospitals. We will be monitoring the situation carefully over the weekend’s anniversary protests and respond accordingly.

The independent Commission of Inquiry established to investigate the protests found an “enormous burden of injuries from the protests” and outlined how this has affected healthcare for all people in Gaza:

“Hospitals were forced to divert resources away from ordinary medical needs, such as cancer treatment, obstetrics and routine operations … Approximately 8,000 elective surgeries were cancelled or postponed, resulting in a backlog that will take years to address.”

The Commission found that “the use of live ammunition by Israeli security forces against demonstrators was unlawful” in all the cases it investigated – 189 fatalities and over 300 of the 23,000 injuries in 2018 – with the possible exception of two incidents. It described the occupied Palestinian territory as “one of the most dangerous places in the world to be a health worker” and found “reasonable grounds to believe that Israeli snipers intentionally shot health workers, despite seeing that they were clearly marked as such.” MAP continues to call on the international community urgently step up its support to Gaza to prevent the total collapse of the healthcare system, and ensure that aid spending is matched by political action to address the root causes of these needs.

MAP is doing all it can to support the provision of vital medical care, but the international community cannot shirk its own responsibility to the people of Gaza,” said Aimee Shalan. “The UK and other influential states must not only take action to address humanitarian needs, but also ensure international law is adhered to and meaningful steps are taken to protect civilians’ lives.”

“The situation in Gaza is fuelled by impunity, which is something that is within the international community’s power to put right.”

(Source / 30.03.2019) 

Gaza’s Great March of Return: a year in review

The Great March of Return in Gaza, August 10, 2018

The Great March of Return in Gaza, August 10, 2018

When the world watched thousands of Gazans take to the Israeli border last year in massive demonstrations, very few, including the march’s organizers, could have imagined that people would still be protesting one year later.

The demonstrations, thousands strong, became known as the Great March of Return.

Palestinians of all ages, genders, and backgrounds gathered from across Gaza on March 30, 2018, and peacefully marched to Israel’s security fence.

Their demands were simple: An end to the now 12-year siege on Gaza, and the ability for refugees, which make up more than 70% of Gaza’s population, be allowed to return to their homes.

What started off as non-violent demonstrations were quickly and violently suppressed by Israeli forces. As the months went on and protests continued, the death toll rose into the hundreds.

Now, one year and thousands of casualties later, Gazans are planning to return back to the borders in massive numbers on March 30th to mark the anniversary of the movement that has shaped their lives for the past year.

Hundreds dead, thousands injured

Over the course of one year, scores of Gazans, mostly young men, have been shot and killed, or severely injured, by Israeli snipers stationed along Gaza’s eastern border with Israel.

On the opening day of the protests last year, Israeli troops killed 14 Palestinians. A month and a half later, on May 14, the day the US opened its Embassy in Jerusalem, Israeli snipers gunned down dozens of protesters, killing 68.

The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reportedthat as of March 22, 2019, 195 Palestinians, including 41 children had been killed, while close to 29,000 people have been injured.

But the Palestinian Ministry of Health in Gaza has placed the death toll as of March 29, 2019 much higher, at 266, including 50 children, three medics, and two journalists.

The ministry also reported the number of injuries to be upwards of 30,000. Among those hospitalized for serious injuries, the ministry said in a statement, were over 3,000 children.

They added that more than 6,000 protesters have been injured with live ammunition.

Doctors in Gaza have expressed concern that protesters have been targeted in the legs by Israeli live fire, noting Israel’s use of expanding or explosive bullets, that tear through soft tissue and make injuries extremely difficult to treat.

As a result, the ministry has reported 136 cases of amputations, including 122 in the lower limbs.

Israeli army accused of war crimes

Since the Great March of Return began, Israel’s approach to the demonstrations have been characterized by the disproportionate use of lethal force against largely unarmed protesters.

The United Nations Commission of Inquiry (COI) published a fiery report last month, condemning the actions of Israeli forces’ in suppressing the Great March of Return protests.

The commission accused Israeli soldiers of deliberately shooting civilians, killing and maiming protesters – including children, as well as journalists and medics.

“The demonstrations were civilian in nature, with clearly stated political aims,” the group said, rejecting Israeli claims that armed Palestinian groups were conducting “terror activities” during the protests.

While the COI acknowledged “acts of significant violence” from demonstrators, some of who threw stones and molotov cocktails at the border fence — which separated them and Israeli troops hundreds of meters behind it —  the panel made clear that such actions “did not amount to combat or military campaigns,” and did not warrant the amount of force deployed by Israeli forces.

Investigators also stated they have reason to believe that Israeli troops had killed and injured Palestinians “who were neither directly participating in hostilities, nor posing an imminent threat.”

“These serious human rights and humanitarian law violations may constitute war crimes or crimes against humanity,” the COI said.

The Israeli response to criticisms of its forces’ actions in Gaza have largely centered around one main narrative: the Great March of Return protests are a front for Hamas “terrorists” attempting to “infiltrate” Israeli territory.

Most of those shot and killed, the Israelis maintain, have been “terrorists.”

But investigators have presented vastly different findings. The UN COI said that they estimated around 29 of those killed were “members of Palestinian organized armed groups.”

Israeli human rights group B’Tselem said that out of 254 identified slain protesters, only 90  were said to be “participating in hostilities,” which in most cases, was stone-throwing.

Stakes high as as elections draw closer

The anniversary of the Great March of Return is coming at a tense time in the Gaza Strip. The past week has seen an escalation between Hamas and Israeli air forces, following several incidents of rocket fire coming from Gaza into Israeli territory.

Israeli forces conducted scores of airstrikes across the besieged territory, targeting dozens of buildings allegedly belonging to the military wing of Hamas.

Ma’an News Agency reported that the airstrikes, however, completely destroyed 30 residential structures, and at least 500 others were partially damaged.

The latest reports from Israeli media on Friday evening said that Palestinian factions in Gaza had agreed to quell anniversary protests scheduled for Saturday in return for an easing of the siege.

Citing a senior member of one of the factions, Haaretz reported that Hamas would “prevent protesters from approaching the fence separating Israel from Gaza, while Israel responds with restraint and avoids hurting civilians.”

“The Egyptians have been working to convince Hamas leaders to ensure the protests don’t spiral out control by taking steps such as deploying security forces to oversee events and preventing protesters from approaching the fence,” Haaretz reported.

Should Hamas be successful in suppressing the protests, the alleged agreement would see a re-opening of border crossings between Gaza and Israel, an easing of import and export restrictions, an expansion of the Israel-designated fishing zone in Gaza, and the entry of millions of dollars of Qatari aid that the Israelis have been preventing for months.

Despite the alleged talks between Israel and Hamas, Israeli forces have deployed heavily to the borders with Gaza, with Haaretz reporting that the number of troops has been doubled, while some 200 snipers have been deployed.

With Israeli elections due for April 9th, and much of the campaign discourse centered on the which candidate can best “provide security for Israelis,” it would be in Netanyahu’s best interest to maintain quiet in Gaza and avoid an escalation in violence that could spiral out of his control.

(Source / 30.03.2019)