Israeli troops kill three and wound hundreds more in the protests marking a year since the Great March of Return protests began, and coming as cease-fire talks between Israel and Hamas come to a head.
By Mohammed Zaanoun/Activestills.org
A large crowd of Palestinian protesters gathers near the Gaza fence to mark Land Day and one year since the start of the Great Return March protests, March 30, 2019. (Mohammed Zaanoun/Activestills.org)
GAZA CITY — At least 40,000 Palestinians protested at several locations along the fence surrounding the Gaza Strip on Saturday, marking Land Day and one year since the start of the Great March of Return protests.
Israeli troops used live ammunition, rubber-coated metal bullets, and tear gas to try and disperse demonstrators who approached the fence. According to the Gaza Ministry of Health, Israeli snipers killed three 17-year-old boys during the protests, and more than 300 others were wounded, including five who were in critical condition.
Adham Amara, 17, was shot and killed east of Gaza City, and Bilal Mahmoud Najjar and Tamer Aby el-Khair, both 17, were shot in east of Khan Yunis and died later at the hospital. A fourth man, Mohammad Saed, was killed along the fence before the protests began Saturday morning.
The return march protests began as a mass movement last year, demanding to fulfill the right of return for Palestinian refugees and an end to the Israeli siege. Israeli snipers and sharpshooters killed over 195 participants since March 30, 2018, including 68 in one day alone.
Land Day, March 30th, commemorates how in 1976 Israeli security forces responded to a general strike and mass protest of Palestinian citizens of Israel by killing six and wounding some 100 others.
One woman at the protests on Friday, who gave her name only as Um Ahmed, 42, told +972 Magazine said she wanted the world to know Gaza will not be broken by anyone. “I am here today to demand my right to return to the land occupied by Israel. We will resist the occupier, even they kill us all,” she said, adding, “my hope is that the siege will end and that we could live in peace.”
The protests came as Israel and Hamas, the Palestinian group that rules Gaza, were said to be nearing “understandings” about a cease-fire following a tense several weeks that saw rockets fired at Tel Aviv and Israeli bombing raids across Gaza. Hamas’ demands reportedly focused on easing the blockade, while one of Israel’s central demands was that Hamas rein back the weekly protests along the fence.