Palestinian People Will Not Back Down

Great March of Return Protests Continue
as Israel Targets Youth

On Land Day, March 30, tens of thousands of Palestinian rallied at the Israel-Gaza fence to mark the first anniversary of the Great March of Return, weekly protest marches that began on Land Day last year to affirm the right of return of all those brutally displaced from their homeland by the creation of Israel in 1948 and the ongoing occupation, and also to call for an end to Israel's and Egypt's 12-year blockade of Gaza. The vitality of the protests across the West Bank and Gaza show that the Palestinians remain determined and undaunted. The protestors faced off against Israeli tanks and troops massed on the fortified perimeter, who attacked them with live rounds, rubber bullets and tear gas. Three 17-year-old boys were killed and at least 207 people were wounded, according to Gaza's health ministry.

"We will move towards the borders even if we die," said Yusef Ziyada, 21. "We are not leaving. We are returning to our land." Mohammed Ridwan, 34, told Al Jazeera the huge turnout on March 30 was "ample proof that our people will not back down until they gain their legitimate rights." Bahaa Abu Shammal, a 26-year-old activist, said he was at a protest site "very far away from the separation fence," but still, nearly "suffocated due to Israeli tear gas." He said, "We need to break the brutal siege we suffer from. We want to return to our lands."

News reports indicate that at least 49 children have been killed at the protests at the Gaza border fence since the protests began last year. According to the UN, more than 6,000 children have also been injured by live ammunition, rubber bullets and tear gas. According to the UN's World Health Organization (WHO), 2,980 children were so badly wounded that they required hospital care. Thousands have sustained serious wounds, including blindness, head injuries, and amputations. Twenty-one children have had upper or lower limbs amputated following injuries inflicted by Israeli troops as they participated in weekly demonstrations, according to the WHO.

Many of those who survived have suffered life-changing injuries and have been denied, or been unable to access, adequate medical care to address their needs. The demand for specialist medical support has far exceeded Gaza's health system, which has been undermined by years of the U.S.-backed blockade. According to the WHO, 80 per cent of children injured at the protests who applied to leave Gaza to receive emergency medical treatment in Israel over the last year have had their permits rejected or delayed.

According to the UN, Israeli violence at the March of Return demonstrations injured more than 20,000 adults between March 30, 2018 and January 31, 2019, and many more have occurred since then. The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights reports the deaths of nearly 200 Palestinian protesters shot by Israeli sharpshooters. In contrast, four Israeli soldiers are reported to have been injured in the same period.

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(With files from Al Jazeera)

This article was published in

Volume 49 Number 13 - April 13, 2019

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