The 53rd main Great Return March in the besieged Gaza Strip on Friday April 5th was attacked by Israel’s occupation forces with its usual arsenal: Mainly live bullets and tear-gas grenades, with limited use of rubber-coated steel bullets.
There was one ‘novelty’ in the form of tear-gas whose fumes were coloured red and yellow. There are reports inhaling this particular form of tear-gas would have led to convulsions in some of those who came into contact with it.
This is not the first time that convulsions and possible long-term neurological damage have been reported as a result of Israeli tear-gas during the Great Return March demonstrations, so the ‘novelty’ may be connected to the colour alone.
Up to 109 people were wounded in the Israeli attacks, with 56 being hit by live bullets or shrapnel, 47 were hit by tear-gas grenades which Israeli occupation forces launch as high-velocity volleys, and 6 people were hit by rubber-coated steel bullets.
Three of the victims suffered serious injuries. There is one source (@paldf) which reports a teenage boy was revived three minutes after his heart had stopped beating as a result of being shot and wounded by an Israeli occupation forces sniper.
Among those wounded are said to be 30 children, 6 women and 2 journalists.
Up to 282 people have been killed by Israel’s regime during protests in the besieged littoral enclave since the beginning of the Great Return March on March 30th 2018.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Saturday that he would annex Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank if he wins another term in office, a last-minute pre-election promise likely to enrage Palestinians and the Arab world.
In an interview with Israeli Channel 12 News three days ahead of the 9 April poll, Netanyahu was asked why he had not extended sovereignty to large West Bank settlements, as Israel did without international recognition in east Jerusalem and the Golan Heights, both captured in the 1967 Middle East war.
“Who says that we won’t do it? We are on the way and we are discussing it,” Netanyahu said.
“You are asking whether we are moving on to the next stage – the answer is yes, we will move to the next stage. I am going to extend (Israeli) sovereignty and I don’t distinguish between settlement blocs and the isolated settlements.”
The veteran right-wing Israeli leader, who has dominated Israeli politics for a generation, is fighting for his political survival against former top general Benny Gantz, a political novice campaigning on a centrist platform.
Netanyahu has cast Gantz as a weak leftist who would endanger Israel’s security by giving territorial concessions to the Palestinians.
But Netanyahu, who has fought the election campaign under the shadow of corruption allegations, is also competing for votes with far-right parties who advocate annexation. His comments are likely to appeal to hardline voters, who oppose ceding lands.
Palestinian leaders immediately reacted with anger.
Saeb Erekat, the chief Palestinian negotiator and a close aide to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, said: “Israel will continue to brazenly violate international law for as long as the international community will continue to reward Israel with impunity, particularly with the Trump Administration’s support and endorsement of Israel’s violation of the national and human rights of the people of Palestine.”
In Gaza, Hamas official Sami Abu Zuhri urged Abbas’s Western-backed Palestinian Authority to halt its security cooperation with Israel in the occupied West Bank.
“Netanyahu’s dreams of annexing the West Bank will never be achieved and we will not allow that to happen,” he said.
“It is time for (the PA) to stop security coordination with the occupation, and to get united in the face of the challenges.”
Settlements are one of the most heated issues in efforts to restart Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, frozen since 2014.
After decades of settlement-building, more than 400,000 Israelis now live in the West Bank, according to Israeli figures, among about 2.9 million Palestinians according to the Palestinian Statistics Bureau.
A further 212,000 Israeli settlers live in East Jerusalem, according to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.
The Palestinians and many countries consider settlements to be illegal under the Geneva conventions that bar settling on land captured in war. Israel disputes this, citing security needs and biblical, historical and political connections to the land.
The Palestinians want to establish a state in the West Bank, east Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip, all territory Israel captured in 1967. Israel has annexed east Jerusalem and withdrawn from Gaza. The West Bank remains under Israeli military occupation with limited Palestinian self-rule.
Netanyahu’s remarks follow a series of announcements and policy changes by US President Donald Trump that were seen to favour Israel.
In March, Trump broke with decades of international consensus by recognising Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights, territory Israel captured from Syria.
That followed his December 2017 decision to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and to move the US embassy there. Both moves delighted Israel, infuriated Palestinian and Arab leaders, and were opposed by most US allies.
With Trump’s moves on Jerusalem and The Golan, the Israeli leader may feel emboldened to advocate for annexation.
US officials have said they would unveil a long-awaited Trump administration Middle East peace plan after the Israeli election, but prospects to restart negotiations appear dim.
The Palestinians have been boycotting the Trump administration over its Jerusalem moves and other recent decisions they view as pro-Israel bias.
The US State Department declined to comment about Netanyahu’s remarks, which were viewed in the Israeli media as an attempt to draw right-wing votes rather than an immediate change of policy.
Netanyahu has been plagued by corruption allegations throughout the election campaign after Israel’s attorney general publicly announced in February that he intends to indict Netanyahu.
Netanyahu has denied any wrongdoing in three cases of alleged bribery and fraud, but the allegations could cloud his political future and that of any government he might head, possibly leading to a new election.
His main election rival, Gantz, has vowed to pursue peace with the Palestinians, but he has also stopped short at embracing their quest for statehood.
A spokeswoman for Gantz declined to comment on Netanyahu’s remarks.
On Friday, the last day polling is allowed, Gantz’s centrist Blue and White party was projected to take 30 seats, more than the 26 forecast for Netanyahu’s right-wing Likud, according to a poll in Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper.
But this and other polls also projected a majority of the Knesset’s 120 seats will go to the parties in Netanyahu’s right-wing bloc, giving Netanyahu a slim but workable majority.
A few days before the previous Israeli election in 2015, Netanyahu vowed there would never be a Palestinian state under his watch but then backtracked on that statement after a rebuke from Trump’s predecessor, Barack Obama.
Last year, however, Netanyahu told members of his right-wing Likud party that Israel and the United States were discussing the possibility of Israel annexing settlements. The White House swiftly denied that.
While vowing that he would not evacuate settlers from their homes, Netanyahu has also said in the past that the future of the settlements should be determined in peace talks with the Palestinians.
The Palestinian Detainee’s Committee has reported that Israeli soldiers have abducted, in March alone, at least 34 children, some of them were assaulted and tortured, in addition to imposing severe fines on them and their families.
The Committee stated that Israeli courts have imposed more than 37.000 Shekels on fines on the detained children, and added that they were moved to Ofer prison, near Ramallah in the occupied West Bank.
It said that the army abducted twenty Palestinian children from their homes, after the soldiers stormed and ransacked them, mainly during the night or at dawn, in addition to 11 children who were taken prisoner after being stopped by the soldiers in the streets, one who was abducted at a military roadblock, one for entering Jerusalem without a permit, and one after summoning him for interrogation.
One of the detained children was shot and injured by the soldiers prior to his abduction, and at several others who were repeatedly assaulted after their abduction and during interrogation.
Israeli courts also imposed prison sentences of 19 Palestinian children, for various periods ranging between 31 days and twelve months, in addition to Mustafa Abu Ghosh, who is held under arbitrary Administrative Detention orders without charges or trial.
The Committee added that Israel is holding captive 114 Palestinian children in Ofer prison and said that Israeli courts constantly impose high fines on the detained children, in addition to denying them basic rights.
Furthermore, the Committee stated that the children in Section 13 of Ofer prison started complaining from migraines after Israel installed signal jammers that apparently have high frequency.
Israeli soldiers attacked, Sunday, schoolchildren while standing in line before the beginning of the school day in Hebron Elementary School, in Hebron city, in the southern part of the occupied West Bank, causing dozens to suffer the effects of teargas inhalation.
Adnan Da’na, the principal of the school, told the WAFA Palestinian News Agency that the soldiers fired a barrage of gas bombs into the school’s yard, as the students were standing in line ahead of the start of their school day.
He added that dozens of schoolchildren, and several teachers, suffered the effects of teargas inhalation, while some of them were rushed to al-Mohtaseb Hospital in the city, due to the severe effects that made them unable to breathe.
Israeli soldiers invaded, on Sunday morning, the home of a Palestinian woman, the head of a local society for women and democracy, in occupied East Jerusalem, and summoned her for interrogation.
The soldiers invaded Sur Baher town, southeast of Jerusalem, stormed and ransacked the home of Zohour Abu Mayyala, the head of “Women For Life and Democracy” society and summoned her for interrogation.
Abu Mayyala is active in women’s rights and equality, and a known nonviolent activist in defending Palestinian rights in the occupied city.
In related news, the soldiers invaded the home of Sheikh Mousa Odah, in the al-Bustan neighborhood in Silwan town, south of the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem, and violently search the property before summoning him for interrogation.
The Palestinian is a former political prisoner who was frequently detained and imprisoned by Israel, in addition to being repeatedly denied access to the Al-Aqsa Mosque for various periods of time.
Days Of Palestine [ March Of Return ] – Yaser Murtaja, a photojournalist and cameraperson for the Gaza-based media production company Ain Media, was injured on April 6, 2018, when a live round hit him in the abdomen while he was covering Great March of Return protests in the area east of Khan Younis city.
The local press freedom group Palestinian Center for Media Development (MADA) reported, quoting Murtaja’s colleague Hossam Hisham Salem who was at the scene. Murtaja died the next day from wounds sustained during the shooting, according to MADA, the regional press freedom group the Journalist Support Committee (JSC), and the Palestinian Journalist Syndicate (PJS).
Picturesposted on social media by local journalists and witness testimony from local journalists show that Murtaja was wearing a bulletproof vest and helmet that were both clearly marked with the words “PRESS” when he was hit.
Hossam Hisham Salem, a photographer for Ain Media who witnessed the his colleague being shot, told MADA that Murtaja was approximately 350 meters (1,148 ft) from the border fence when a bullet hit the right side of his abdomen.
“He was transferred to Nasser Hosptial in Khan Younis where he underwent a four-hour operation, during which part of his liver was removed. The bullet caused severe damage in the spleen and arteries, resulting in substantial blood loss.
At midnight, his state worsened and had to undergo surgery again. He died an hour later,” he said, according to MADA’s website.
Murtaja was covering the second week of the Great March of Return protests by hundred thousands of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, news reports said. According to CPJ research and newsreports, at least 10 Palestinian journalists were injured by live rounds, gas canisters, and tear gas since protests began to escalate on March 30, 2018.
In response to Murtaja’s death, Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman said that “whoever operates drones above IDF [Israel Defense Forces] soldiers needs to understand that he is endangering himself,” and “We have seen dozens of cases of Hamas activists were disguised as medics and journalists,” according to local media reports.
In a statement released on April 7, the IOF [Israeli Occupation Forces] denied that it targets journalists and said the circumstances of Murtaja’s death would be investigated, newsreports said. The IOF did not immediately reply to CPJ’s email requesting comment.
IOF’s chief of training and doctrine, Brigadier Gen. Moti Baruch, has been appointed to lead the investigation into the IOF’s response to the mass protests in the Gaza Strip, including the death of Murtaja, according to news reports.
A report released by Human Rights Watch on April 3 said that Israeli soldiers had orders from senior Israeli officials to use live ammunition against Palestinian protesters even if protesters did not pose a threat to the soldiers or civilians.
Murataja helped found Ain Media in 2012 and previously produced video and documentaries for Arabic outlets, including the Qatari broadcaster Al-Jazeera Arabic, the London-based Al-Araby TV and international organizations, including UNICEF.
His work focused mainly on human rights and politics in Gaza and the region. He had also worked on assignments for Al-Jazeera English and Vice, according to reporter Anna Therese Day who was in touch with Murataja’s relatives. He also worked as camera assistant for Chinese artist Ai Wei Wei’s documentary Human Flow, news reports said.
One year ago today, an Israeli sniper killed Palestinian photojournalist Yaser Murtaja, during protests inside the occupied Gaza Strip.