Massive marches to Israeli border affirms Palestinians’ Right of Return

42nd Anniversary of Palestinian Land Day

Mass Land Day demonstration in Gaza, near the border with the Zionist State of Israel, March 30, 2018, as the March of Return begins.

This year is the 42nd anniversary of Palestinian Land Day. On March 30, 1976, six Palestinians from Arab villages inside the Green Line were shot and killed by Israeli forces while protesting the confiscation of 5,500 acres of land from the Galilee in northern Israel to build Jewish communities. About 100 others were wounded and hundreds were arrested during the protest on March 30 of that year. Since then, Land Day has been commemorated by Palestinians inside Israel as well as in the West Bank, Gaza and Jerusalem and around the world. In Arabic, Yawm al-‘Ard is one of the most widely-observed Palestinian national anniversaries. It signifies the unity of the land on all of historical Palestine, and the indivisibility of Palestinians wherever they live.

This year, Land Day is being marked by a Mass March of Return, with tens of thousands of people from Gaza and the West Bank marching for over 46 days to converge en masse on the Gaza Strip’s roughly 45-kilometre-long eastern border with Israel. The action will culminate on May 14 to mark the 70th anniversary of Al Nakba (the catastrophe) in which the brutal and genocidal displacement of the Palestinian people that continues to this day accompanied the creation of the Zionist state of Israel. The Mass March of Return makes clear the indomitable resistance of the Palestinian people to the Zionist occupiers by which, generations later, all those displaced as well as their descendants fully affirm their right of return as codified in international law.

Premeditated massacre

The Zionist occupiers have responded with predictable violence and threats of mass killings and collective punishment of protestors, openly broadcasting their deadly and premeditated aims in advance. The army treated a demonstration area as a combat area and proclaimed illegal open fire regulations, as indicated by two headlines in the Haaretz newspaper:

A wounded Palestinian woman is evacuated near Khan Younis after Israeli forces opened live fire on Palestians

According to the Gaza-based human rights group Al Mezan, the first death of the day occurred around 5 am early Friday morning, when Israeli tanks fired an artillery shell killing Omar Wahid Samour, a 27-year-old Palestinian farmer working in his field some 700 metres inside Gaza near the town of Khan Younis. A second Palestinian, Mohammed Kamal, 25, was reportedly killed in Jabalia, according to medical sources in Gaza. Another was critically wounded at the same time by an Israeli tank shell, according to Hamas-run media. In a separate incident earlier Friday morning, the Israeli army fired at two suspects in the northern Gaza Strip, according to the IDF.

Israeli forces used snipers, tanks firing artillery shells and drones firing tear gas.

According to the Palestinian Health Ministry, 1,416 people were wounded on March 30 alone: 758 from live fire, 148 from rubber-tipped bullets, 422 from inhaling tear gas and 88 from other causes. Palestinian officials said that one was killed and 237 wounded in Rafah; four were killed and 345 wounded in southern Gaza; five were killed and 286 wounded in northern Gaza; two were killed and 197 wounded in central Gaza; and three were killed and 351 wounded in Khan Younis.

Israeli snipers take position on a high ground overlooking the “border” of besieged Gaza.

Cowardly Zionist forces used drones to drop tear gas bombs

Photo shows that along with fences to imprison Gazans, the Zionists have constructed huge earthern ditches, part of the largest subterranean barrier in history. On the Palestinian side, they have also decreed a “no go” area of 300 metres in Gaza.

Mass Land Day demonstration in Gaza, near the border with the Zionist State of Israel, March 30, 2018, as the March of Return begins.

Israeli army opens fire on thousands of unarmed Palestinians participating in Land Day March of Return in Gaza near the Israeli border, with at least 17 deaths and the Palestinian Ministry of Health reporting more than 1,400 injured, including injuries from live ammunition fire. The Palestinian Authority has declared Saturday, March 31, 2018 a day of national mourning. The numbers point to exceptional and widespread use of live fire by the army. Friday was the worst day of violence in the Gaza Strip since the end of Operation Protective Edge in the summer of 2014.

Palestine’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Expatriates strongly condemned the Zionists’ threats, noting that “the most prominent of these threats is the statement of the Israeli Chief of General Staff of the Israeli Defense Forces, Gadi Eizenkot.

“Eizenkot bragged that he had given a death warrant to hundreds of snipers deployed on the border of the Gaza Strip and to target unarmed Palestinian citizens participating in peaceful protests. Eizenkot justified this radical statement: ‘If the snipers feel the lives of Israelis are under threat,’ which reminds us of the same statement that was authorized by the Israeli government’s decision to allow Israeli soldiers to kill Palestinian citizens as they wish, which resulted in hundreds or even thousands of executions on the ground against our people. These executions were later documented in videos that proved that these crimes against Palestinians are done with premeditation, without causing any danger to the Israeli soldiers.

“Benjamin Netanyahu’s government bears full and direct responsibility for the consequences of this extremist criminal statement.

“The ministry affirms that this authorization to commit murders against Palestinians is a continuation of the fascist, racist and colonial ideologies that are based on violence and organized state terrorism. Therefore, Israeli officials publicly admit that they are preparing to commit a massacre on Friday [March 30] against our people, and here we ask: What will the international community do? The Ministry assures that the failure to hold Israel accountable as an occupying force for its crimes and violations has encouraged Israeli politicians, military and security officials to continue to abuse and suppress our people, aiming to exterminate the national existence in Palestine.

“The biased and unlimited American support for the occupation’s policies and measures, and the double standards of many countries in their foreign policy has encouraged the expansion of the colonial projects, in addition to escalating the mass murder of Palestinians.”

Israel occupation army spokesperson admits war crimes

The Israeli army posted a statement on Twitter on Saturday apparently accepting full responsibility for the killings a day earlier. The army then quickly deleted the admission – as more evidence of war crimes by its soldiers came to light – but not before a copy was made by the human rights group B’Tselem (B’tzelem). See the screenshot here.

Israeli army takes full responsibility for the killing of all unarmed protesters and the injuring of hundreds with live ammunition.

— Sarit Michaeli (@saritm0) March 31, 2018

— B’Tselem בצלם بتسيلم (@btselem) March 31, 2018

The now-deleted tweet from the official @IDFSpokesperson account stated:

“Yesterday we saw 30,000 people; we arrived prepared and with precise reinforcements. Nothing was carried out uncontrolled; everything was accurate and measured, and we know where every bullet landed.”

Sarit Michaeli, B’Tselem’s international advocacy officer, characterized the statement as meaning that the “Israeli army takes full responsibility for the killing of all unarmed protesters and the injuring of hundreds with live ammunition.” (Electronic Intifada, “Israel admits, then deletes, responsibility for Gaza killings.”)

A video of the slaying of one youth, widely shared on social media, shows Abd al-Nabi, 18, running alongside two other Palestinians far away from the boundary fence when the crack of a gunshot is heard and he falls suddenly. Haaretz reports that he was shot in the back and killed. Another video apparently shows a man being shot and injured as he prayed with a group of Palestinians, with the boundary fence visible in the far distance.

Mass protests continued on March 31

Israelis demonstrate

On April 1, in Tel Aviv, hundreds of peace activists, joined by Joint List MKs, called on the government to lift the Gaza siege, prevent escalation of violence and pursue peace.

Protesters carried signs bearing various slogans, such as “There’s another way”, “Stop the gunfire”, and “Two peoples, one hope” while some Palestinian flags were also hung during the demonstration.

United States blocks United Nations action

On March 30, the UN Security Council met that night at the initiative of Kuwait to discuss the situation, without issuing any statement. Israeli representatives boycotted the session. The Kuwaiti draft Security Council statement demanded an investigation into Gaza’s Land Day rallies in which 17 were killed. UN Secretary-General António Guterres also called for an independent inquiry into the violence. Al Jazeera reported:

“The United States has blocked a draft statement by the United Nations Security Council that called for an investigation into the killing of 17 unarmed Palestinian protesters near the Gaza Strip‘s eastern border.

“The statement, which was proposed by Kuwait, demanded an “independent and transparent investigation” under international law into the bloody events on Friday’s Land Day protests.

“The statement also expressed ‘grave concern at the situation at the border’ and stressed ‘the right to peaceful protest’.

“However, the US blocked the statement on Saturday, with US representative to the UN Walter Miller saying ‘bad actors’ were using the ‘protests as a cover to incite violence’ and to ‘endanger innocent lives.’“

Although such inquiries in the past have uncovered evidence of Israeli war crimes, they have never led to effective action to hold Israel to account. Guterres himself, acting under US pressure, last year suppressed a UN report that found Israel practices apartheid against Palestinians.

The right of return is enshrined in international law. The UN General Assembly in December 1948 adopted Resolution 194, which called for the return of Palestinian refugees to their homes. In June 1967, the UN Security Council passed Resolution 237 calling on Israel to facilitate the return of refugees, thereby including those forced out by Israel’s seizure of land days earlier. The UN is duty bound to uphold the principle of these resolutions and oppose pragmatic arguments of exceptional circumstances.

The Gazans massacred have not only been under a criminal siege for close to twelve years, unable to cross over into Egypt or 1948 Palestine; but are also anxious and concerned about Trump’s announcement that the U.S. Embassy is to be moved to Jerusalem on Nakba Day, May 15th.  This is what originally prompted the organizing of the Great March of Return, planned to begin on Land Day and last six weeks until Nakba Day.

With a file from TML Weekly and Electronic Intifada. (Photos: R. Al Jaar, Bea, Adalauk Palestin, D. Abushamala, K. Sofi)


Postscript: More evidence emerges of a massacre

#CaughtOnCamera| March 30: An Israeli sniper targets with live ammunition an unarmed Palestinian young man near the #Gazaborder

— Euro-Med Monitor (@EuroMedHR) April 2, 2018

#CaughtOnCamera| Video documenting Israeli snipers’ targeting of Palestinian unarmed protesters and youth attempting to evacuate the wounded near the #Gaza border.

— Euro-Med Monitor (@EuroMedHR) April 2, 2018

The Israeli army is urged to investigate the killings of Palestinians who posed no threat to its snipers along the #Gaza borders.#CaughtOnCamera

— Euro-Med Monitor (@EuroMedHR) April 1, 2018

#CaughtOnCamera| Israeli sniper shot an unarmed Palestinian while he was performing prayers near the #Gaza borders on Friday, March 30.
Un tireur d’élite israélien a tiré sur un Palestinien non armé alors qu’il faisait sa prière près des frontières de #Gaza le vendredi 30 mars

— Euro-Med Monitor (@EuroMedHR) April 1, 2018

#CaughtOnCamera| Video documenting Israeli snipers’ targeting of Palestinian unarmed protesters and youth attempting to evacuate the wounded.

— Euro-Med Monitor (@EuroMedHR) April 1, 2018

Source: Ali Abunimah, “Will Israel pay a price for its Gaza massacre?,” Electronic Intifada, April 2, 2018

For your information

Yom-el-Ard – Day of the Land: Symbol of Palestinian Resistance

This article from our archives provides essential information on the vital issue of land and the rising of 1976, when the Palestinian citizens of Israel revolted against the Israeli government, which had just announced new and extensive land expropriation plans in the Galilee. It also provides information on the monopolization by Zionist big capital of the land, presented as “Jewish right.”
It reports on an important paper presented to the Halifax Political Forum on 15 April 2014 in Halifax by Palestinian-Canadian student Nabil Hdeib jointly prepared with Tony Seed. The forum was held to commemorate this occasion and pay homage to the resistance struggle of the Palestinian people.

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One response to “Massive marches to Israeli border affirms Palestinians’ Right of Return

  1. Pingback: Criminal silence of Global Affairs Canada on Israeli massacre | Tony Seed's Weblog

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