A Palestinian child holds a sign on Land Day.
For the past six weeks, Gaza has been in the news as residents have been protesting near the barbed wire fence and free-fire “no-go” zone that traps them under Israel’s siege and blockade of the impoverished territory.
The protests began on March 30, commemorated by Palestinians as “Land Day” annually since 1976, when six unarmed Palestinian citizens of Israel (including three women) protesting government confiscation of their lands for Jewish-only settlements in the Arab-majority Galilee area were shot dead by the Israeli army and police, who were not punished.
In Gaza and elsewhere this “Great March of Return” demonstration by all factions and sectors of Palestinian society asserts their international legal right to return to the villages and towns Israel expelled them from in 1948 – lands that for Gazans lie just a few miles away on the other side of the barbed wire, and to which they have been forbidden to return solely because they are not Jewish. The demonstrations are set to culminate on May 15, Nakba (Catastrophe) Day, when Palestinians protest their ongoing dispossession by Israel and the western powers.
In the early hours of March 30, before any demonstrations had started, Israeli soldiers fired a tank shell at two farmers “acting suspiciously” in their fields, blowing one to pieces and injuring the other. Later that day, snipers Israel had placed behind earthworks along the fence with openly-declared shoot-to-kill orders began firing on the unarmed protesters. At least 18 were killed and more than 1400 injured that first day. As of this writing, the death toll stands at over 50, including five children and two journalists. Over 6,000 have been injured, with hundreds suffering devastating injuries caused by exploding bullets that rip through flesh and bone according to Doctors without Borders. No Israelis have been injured.