At least 18 Palestinians have been killed in Gaza since protests started on Palestinian Land Day, March 30. At least 1,400 more in Gaza and the West Bank have been injured by the Israeli military, using live ammunition, rubber-coated bullets, and tear gas. Almost half of the injured are teenagers who have only known life under the blockade in Gaza.
Grassroots International joins our partners in Palestine and people of conscience around the world in condemning the recent killings and ongoing brutal attacks on unarmed Palestinian protesters by the Israeli military.
Land Day has been commemorated by Palestinians since March 30, 1976, the day when Israeli military killed six Palestinian youth protesting peacefully in Galilee against Israel’s policy of removing Palestinians from their historical lands to make way for Jewish-only settlements.
The peaceful protests on this year’s Land Day mark the beginning of a planned six-weeks of popular mobilizations, leading up to the 70th anniversary of Nakba Day on May 15th. Nakba means catastrophe, which is how the Palestinians refer to the period surrounding 1948 when over 700,000 Palestinians were expelled from their homes leading up to, during, and after the war after the state of Israel was officially created. Accounting for internally displaced people within Israel, Palestinian refugees now total more than two-thirds of the entire Palestinian population.
Protests, rallies and marches, known as the “Great March of Return” are taking place across occupied Gaza Strip and West Bank as well as within Israel, and solidarity marches are being organized around the globe.
Pre-determined Israeli Military Response
The extreme violence appears to be deliberate, according to Israeli human rights group, B’Tselem and other reports. An Israeli military spokesperson said in a tweet, which has since been deleted, “nothing was carried out uncontrolled; everything was accurate and measured. We know where every bullet landed.” Along with tanks and drones, the Israeli forces deployed 100 snipers to the Palestinian border.
Palestinians were shot for simply approaching the fence and the arbitrary restricted access zone near the fence.
There is considerable concern that the violence is only going to increase as Israeli authorities show no signs of backing down from their military response or abiding by their international legal obligations.
Conditions in Gaza
The Gaza protests emerged out of a humanitarian crisis resulting from multiple bombings and the siege, which has blocked movement of people and vital goods.
According to a January report of the Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Monitor and United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugee (UNRWA):
- 97 percent of Gaza water is unfit for human consumption.
- 45 percent of medicines are absent from the warehouses of the Gaza Ministry of Health, along with 28 percent of needed medical equipment.
- 50 percent of Palestinian children need psychological counseling.
- Only 54 percent of requested medical transfers to outside hospitals in 2017 were approved—the lowest since 2006.
- 44 percent of the adult Gaza population is unemployed. Among youth, it’s 62 percent and among those with disabilities, it’s 90 percent.
- 65 percent of families live in poverty (95 percent among fishermen) and more than 72 percent don’t have enough food.
- Of the total population of 1.9 million Palestinians living in Gaza, 1.3 million (approximately 70%) are refugees, displaced from their original villages by Israel.
“Palestinians in the Gaza Strip don’t have a lot of choices; we are cornered. We either risk our lives to take a stand or we slowly die while we wait for our rights,” explained Abu Ratima, one of the participants in the march.
According to the largest coalition of Palestinian civil society groups, the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) National Committee, the key goal of the marches is to “uphold the fundamental right of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and land, and for an end to Israel’s policy of ethnic cleansing.”
In addition to calling for independent, international investigation into the violence, the BDS National Committee is also calling on the global community to enact accountability measures against Israel, including a military embargo on Israel, much like the embargo that was imposed upon apartheid South Africa.
US Role and Responsibility
Appallingly, the US blocked a recent resolution in the UN Security Council, which would have called for an independent investigation into the Palestinian deaths in Gaza on Land Day. The US continues to support Israel with a $38 billion in a military aid package. In addition, President Trump’s reckless announcement to move the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem flies in the face of a vision of a just peace for the people of the region.
Grassroots International continues to stand in solidarity with our Palestinian partners as they take courageous action for rights to land, water, food sovereignty, self-determination, and other fundamental human rights.
Please join us and take action to demand an independent investigation, respect for internationally recognized refugee rights, safety for demonstrators, and an end to US military aid to Israel. Thank you!
Our Palestinian partners need your support as they continue to organize to defend their rights. Your donation today will go towards bolstering efforts that are needed now more than ever like:
- Emergency medical care
- Continued peaceful mobilizations
- Human rights monitoring and defense
- Mental health services