Israel deploys 100 sharpshooters against planned mass Gandhian demonstration by Gaza families

Israel deploys 100 sharpshooters against planned mass Gandhian demonstration by Gaza families

Israel’s Golani Brigade (photograph from Israeli press archive).

Update: Israeli forces have killed 24 and shot over 1,000, including a child in the head and a soccer player in the knee. (See video report at end of post)

Israeli forces are mobilizing against a mass peaceful protest by Palestinian families in Gaza demonstrating for their right of return to land that Israel has confiscated for Jewish only habitation… The Israeli cabinet has issued a “shoot to kill” policy…

The protesters’ demands to Israel?

“To be let out from the cage you have bound them in, to fish without being shot, to return to the village that you have torn down, to travel outside the barbed wire you surround them with, to be treated with basic human rights, to let their children live and thrive…

“Please world, all eyes on Gaza/Palestine tomorrow. Do not let peaceful protesters be slaughtered”  – Zaina Masri

Palestinian women in Gaza march toward the Israeli border on March 29, 2018 in the build up to the Great March of Return scheduled for March 30.

Israel has deployed more than 100 snipers and thousands of soldiers against a planned unarmed demonstration by Palestinian families in Gaza scheduled to begin on Friday and last until May 15th. [Updates will be posted at the end of this article]

Reuters reports:  “The Israeli military has deployed more than 100 sharpshooters on the Gaza border ahead of a planned mass Palestinian demonstration, Israel’s top general said in an interview published on Wednesday.”

Organizers of the protest say they expect thousands in Gaza, including entire families, to answer their call for a peaceful protest. Demonstrators are to gather in tent cities in five locations along the border for a right of return of Palestinian refugees to what is now called Israel.

Children run past protest tents pitched by Palestinians on Gaza’s border with Israel, visible in the background, on March 29, 2018. (AFP Photo/MAHMUD HAMS)

The Times of Israel reports that in addition to the snipers, “Israeli police officers will be stationed a bit farther back, in order to keep back any Palestinians who breach the first line of defense.” Israel is also expected to deploy drones against the protesters.

Israels Ynet News reports: “Thousands of soldiers from the Golani Brigade, the Armored Corps, the Nahal Brigade and the Givati Brigade, as well as troops from the Combat Intelligence Collection Corps, Air Force video units and Special Forces will be deployed along the Gaza frontier.”

A woman sits outside a tent at a Palestinian protest camp near Gaza’s border with Israel on March 29, 2018. (AFP Photo/MAHMUD HAMS)>

Israel has imposed a military enforced “no go” zone for Palestinians on their own land in Gaza next to Israel’s border fence, and has shot numerous farmers and nonviolent demonstrators who have entered it.

On Wednesday the Israeli military bulldozers invaded the “no go” zone to bulldoze structures, and has erected additional barbed wire fencing on the Gaza side of the Israeli barrier.

Ynet reports that soldiers have built fortifications in the form of massive mounds of earth, behind which Israeli snipers will be stationed on Friday. “IDF engineering forces also set up barbed-wire fences to make it harder on Palestinians who may attempt to cross the border fence.”

Israeli soldiers are seen near the Gaza border, Wednesday, March 28, 2018. (AP Photo/Tsafrir Abayov)

The demonstration will start on  “Land Day”, which commemorates six Palestinian citizens of Israel killed by Israeli forces in 1976 while they participated in demonstrations against Israeli confiscation of their land in the Galilee. Israeli forces also wounded 100 people and arrested hundreds more in the largely Christian area.

Some reports suggest that 100,000 Gazans may gather tomorrow. Organizers say that the activities would be “popular and non-violent,’ and without weapons or confrontations.

AFP reports that the Gaza Health Ministry said Israeli soldiers shot five Palestinians Thursday evening after protestors approached the border in several places.

Motivating the demonstrators are numerous factors: A desire to return to homes confiscated by Israel in its 1948 ethnic cleansing – many of those forced out fled to Gaza; Israel’s refusal to abide by international law and allow these refugees and their descendanats to return to their homes; Israel’s continued confiscation of Palestinian land in the years since; its periodic invasions of Gaza in which numerous civilians and children have been killed; and Israel’s over decade long blockade of Gaza that has effectively imprisoned its almost two million men, women, and children, causing increased poverty, suffering, and malnutrition.

Israeli Cabinet: Shoot to kill

According to IMEMC, the Israeli ministerial cabinet held a special meeting Wednesday to discuss the expected protests. “The Cabinet decided to significantly increase military deployments, in addition to using live fire and shoot to kill orders ‘if the Palestinians breach (or approach) the security fence.'” Israeli forces have frequently killed and injured people taking part in unarmed protests.

According to international law, all refugees have the right to return to their homes. Israel, however, has refused to adhere to the law and has confiscated their land for Jewish-only habitation, while the refugees and their descendants often live in poverty in densely populated refugee camps in Gaza and throughout the region.

[For background on “The Great March” go here]

Palestine Chronicle reports: “Sit-ins will start in the besieged Gaza Strip and spread to the occupied West Bank, East Jerusalem and within Israel itself. Hundreds of thousands of Palestinian refugees from refugee camps across Jordan, Lebanon and Syria are also expected to participate in the mass action.”

IMEMC reports that “a member of the Coordination Committee of the ‘Great Return March,’ said the protests would take off from five areas in the Gaza Strip, starting Friday at ten in the morning from the tents that were installed in Rafah, Khan Younis, Central District, Northern District and near Beit Hanoun (Erez) Terminal.

“He added that protests would be unarmed, nonviolent, and that the Palestinians are demanding the internationally guaranteed Right of Return of all refugees, as stated in Article 4 of UN Resolution #194.

“Shreiteh stated that the United Nations has affirmed this right 130 times, and that the protesters will gradually and nonviolently march towards the border fence.

“He said that the Palestinians are not seeking confrontation, and will be nonviolent, parallel with many processions will also be held across the West Bank, and various countries, especially in Lebanon.

“’There are 1.300.000 refugees living in very difficult conditions, and extreme poverty in the Gaza Strip alone,’ Shreiteh stated, ‘We want our rights; we want to return, we want the implementation of International Law.’”

Israeli forces have invaded Gaza numerous times in recent years. Following a 2009 assault there was a controversy over T-shirts worn by some Israeli soldiers celebrating their killing of women and children:

Statement by Israel’s B’Tselem

Ahead of the Palestinian demonstrations planned to start tomorrow (Friday) in Gaza, Israeli officials have repeatedly threatened to respond with lethal force. Completely ignoring the humanitarian disaster in Gaza and Israel’s responsibility for it, they are couching the planned protest in terms of a security risk, framing the demonstrators as terrorists and referring to Gaza as a “combat zone”. Fragments of information reported by the media indicate that: soldiers will be ordered to shoot anyone coming within 300 meters of the fence; snipers will fire at anyone touching it; live fire will be used also in circumstances which are non-life-threatening. In other words: shoot-to-kill unarmed Palestinians taking part in these demonstrations.

Israeli forces have already been lethally shooting Palestinian demonstrators in Gaza for some time. In December 2017 alone – the most lethal month in the last year – Israeli forces shot and killed eight unarmed Palestinian demonstrators in Gaza. [more information here] Expanding this unlawful use of live fire will undoubtedly raise the death toll. Yet this predictable outcome appears not to have affected Israeli decision-making regarding the response to demonstrations in Gaza, both in general and specifically in formulating the open-fire orders.

Further, Israel’s presumption that it can dictate the actions of Palestinians inside the Gaza Strip is absurd. The decision where and whether and how to demonstrate in Gaza is not Israel’s to make – not with regard to tomorrow’s demonstrations nor in general with regard to daily life.

Official Israeli statements have made no reference to the actual reason for the protest – the disastrous reality in Gaza – or to the right to free protest. Israel has the power to immediately change life in Gaza for the better, but has chosen not to do so. It has made Gaza a huge prison, yet forbids the prisoners even to protest against this, on pain of death.

More photos of protest camp

Protest camp near the border between the Gaza Strip and Israel which organizers say will be peaceful. March 29, 2018. (AFP Photo/MOHAMMED ABED)
A Palestinian woman flies a kite ahead of Land Day demonstrations at a protest tent camp near the border between the Gaza Strip and Israel on March 29, 2018 (AFP Photo/MOHAMMED ABED)

Conditions in Gaza caused by Israeli siege

According to a January report of the Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Monitor, cited by We Are Not Numbers:

    • 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.

 

Tomorrow’s protest is due to last until May 15,  “Nakba day” (“Catastrophe” in English), which marks the expulsion of Palestinian Muslims and Christians in order to create the Jewish state of Israel in 1948.

[This report has been updated.]

March 30 Video report:


RELATED & UPDATES: 

*** Latest news on Great March of Return in Gaza – periodically updated ***

Calling Bono: Your Palestinian Gandhis Exist … In Graves And Prisons 

AP’s slanted report on Gaza Return March, corrected and annotated

Gaza ‘Return March’ organizer: ‘We’ll ensure it doesn’t escalate to violence — on our end’ 

IDF Maj.-Gen. (res.) Amos Gilad: “We don’t do Gandhi very well”

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