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Israeli soldiers open fire on Gaza protesters fourth week in a row

Israeli forces reportedly kill at least four protesters and wound over 400 with live ammunition and tear gas during Gaza Return March demonstrations on Friday. 

By +972 Magazine Staff

Palestinian medics evacuate a protester injured during the Great Return March in Gaza. April 20, 2018. (Mohammed Zaanoun / Activestills.)

Palestinian medics evacuate a protester wounded during the Great Return March in Gaza. April 20, 2018. (Mohammed Zaanoun / Activestills.)

Israeli forces opened fire on protesters participating in the Great Return March on Friday for the fourth consecutive week. The Great Return March, which began on Land Day, March 30, is a 45-day series of events planned to culminate on May 15, Nakba Day.

[This post is being updated as events unfold.]

Update: 7:10 pm

Palestinian and Israeli media reporting that four Palestinians have been killed during today’s protests in Gaza, among them a 15-year-old boy.

The Palestinian Ministry of Health is reporting that 445 people have been wounded from live fire and tear gas inhalation during Friday’s protests.

Update: 7:05 pm

Palestinian and Israeli media are reporting that Israeli forces have shot and killed a third Palestinian protester.

Update: 5:10 pm

Palestinian media are reporting that roughly 100 protesters have been wounded today.

Update: 3:20 pm

Palestinian media are reporting that a second protester has been killed by Israeli gunfire near Jabalia.

Update: 3:15 pm

The Palestinian Ministry of Health is reporting that at least 40 protesters have been wounded during the protests today.

Palestinian protesters during the Gaza return march. April 20, 2018. (Mohammed Zaanoun / Activestills.org)

Palestinian protesters during the Gaza return march. April 20, 2018. (Mohammed Zaanoun / Activestills.org)

As of 2pm on Friday, the Palestinian Ministry of Health reported that Israeli forces shot and killed a 25-year-old, handicapped Palestinian man during the day’s protests.

Earlier on Friday morning, IDF planes dropped leaflets warning Gaza residents against participating in the protests. “To the residents of Gaza,” the leaflets stated, “you are participating in violent public disturbances. Hamas is exploiting you to commit acts of terror. The IDF is prepared for anything. Avoid approaching the fence or damaging it […] Do not obey the orders from Hamas that endanger your lives. A different way is possible – your future is in your hands.”

Since the Great Return March began in late March, Israeli sharpshooters and snipers have shot over 1,000 unarmed Palestinian protesters, killing more than 30 people.

A Palestinian protester walks through the smoke of burning tires during the Great Return March demonstrations. April 20, 2018. (Mohammed Zaanoun / Activestills.org)

A Palestinian protester walks through the smoke of burning tires during the Great Return March demonstrations. April 20, 2018. (Mohammed Zaanoun / Activestills.org)

Israeli authorities have doubled down on the decision to use live fire against the unarmed Palestinian protesters, despite international criticism and calls for an independent investigation into the killings.

Following protesters during the first week of April, Fatou Bensouda, chief prosecutor for the International Criminal Court, warned that “violence against civilians — in a situation such as one prevailing in Gaza” could constitute war crimes.

Israeli human rights group B’Tselem has urged Israeli soldiers to refuse orders to open fire on the protesters. Four prominent Israeli human rights groups petitioned the High Court of Justice last Sunday demanding that the court order the state to revoke the rules of engagement that permit shooting demonstrators who pose no danger to human life.

Palestinians hold a funeral for photographer Yasser Murtaja, who was shot and killed by Israeli snipers while covering Gaza's 'Great Return March,' April 7, 2018. (Muhammad Zanoun)

Palestinians hold a funeral for photographer Yasser Murtaja, who was shot and killed by Israeli snipers while covering Gaza’s ‘Great Return March,’ April 7, 2018. (Muhammad Zanoun)

During protests earlier in April, Israeli forces shot at least six journalists in one day. Among them was Yasser Murtaja, a photographer for “Ain Media,” who was reportedly wearing a helmet and vest clearly marked “PRESS” when he was shot; he later died of his wounds.

Inside the Gaza Strip, the Palestinian protesters have built a tent encampment with different tents corresponding to the villages and towns that were destroyed during the Nakba (in Arabic, the Catastrophe), in 1948. More than 700,000 Palestinians were expelled or fled their homes during the 1948 war and its aftermath. Israel subsequently destroyed nearly all of their homes and villages.

Palestinian girls hold a sign that says "We'll return to Al Majdal." (Mohammed Zaanoun / Activestills.org)

Palestinian girls hold a sign that says “We’ll return to Al Majdal.” (Mohammed Zaanoun / Activestills.org)

Some 70 percent of the Gazan population are refugees, meaning they, their parents, or their grandparents fled or were expelled from towns, villages, and cities inside the territory that became Israel in 1948.

Speaking to +972 Magazine before the first day of protest last month, one of the ‘Great Return March’ organizers, Hasan al-Kurd, explained that the plan was to set up camps between between 700-1000 meters from Israel’s border fence, outside the Israeli army’s unilaterally imposed buffer zone. In the weeks leading up to Nakba Day, there would be weekly marches as well as bicycle races and other events.

By mid-May, the Return March organizers hope that hundreds of thousands of Palestinians will join.

Palestinian women walk between burning tires during the Great Return March protests in Gaza. April 20, 2018. (Mohammed Zaanoun / Activestills.org)

Palestinian women walk between burning tires during the Great Return March protests in Gaza. April 20, 2018. (Mohammed Zaanoun / Activestills.org)

“We want families. We want to live in peace — with the Israelis,” al-Kurd said. “We will make sure the protest doesn’t escalate to violence — at least from our end.”

Even before the march began, however, Israeli security forces launched a public campaign painting the ‘Great Return March’ as a violent, Hamas-sponsored event. The Israeli army’s chief of staff announced the deployment of 100 snipers and several infantry brigades to the area of the Gaza border fence. Israeli generals warned that there would be casualties.

On Land Day and Nakba in 2011, the last time a protest march of a similar scale was attempted, thousands of Palestinians from Lebanon, Syria, the West Bank, Gaza, and inside Israel marched on Israel’s borders. The army responded with gunfire on the Lebanese, Syrian, and Gaza borders, killing dozens and wounding hundreds.

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    COMMENTS

    1. Bruce Gould

      Gideon Levy has written an op-ed piece for the New York Times (online version) today – this is the strongest critique of Israel I have seen in the mainstream media to date:

      https://www.nytimes.com/2018/04/20/opinion/gaza-israel-occupation-friday.html

      So Israel is permitted everything in Gaza. And it has turned the territory into its training field, a giant lab — for gauging the reactions of the nearly two million people it keeps under siege there, and for testing its innovative weapons, as well as the limits of what the world will let it get away with…This practice started with the retaliation operations of Unit 101 in the 1950s, payback for Palestinian terrorist attacks. It continued during the brief occupation of Gaza in 1956, during what Israel calls the Sinai Campaign (aka the Suez Crisis), and it resumed again during the early days of occupation after 1967, when Ariel Sharon — then an army commander, later the prime minister — set up death squads in Gaza.

      Reply to Comment
      • Ben

        Gideon Levy breaks out of the Haaretz cocoon and into the mainstream American media and the paper of record. A sign. Of something changing.

        Key phrase “it couldn’t have wished for more”

        Key sentences:

        “Gaza is far from the holy sites, far from the elegant hotels and fashionable bars…Israel uses that remoteness effectively. Although it has moved out of Gaza, its occupation hasn’t stopped. The jailers who once worked inside that prison now operate outside it, which is more comfortable for them anyway. The Israeli government ramped up its abuse after Hamas seized control of the Gaza Strip in June 2007. It couldn’t have wished for more than Hamas’s rise: No one would expect it to negotiate with those fundamentalists…No matter what, Gaza is simply characterized as a hive of terrorism and a constant threat to our security. “Go to Gaza!” is a common Hebrew curse.”

        Another sign of something changing:

        Genesis Prize Cancels Ceremony After 2018 Winner Natalie Portman Says Won’t Visit Israel
        Portman said ‘recent events in Israel’ have been ‘extremely distressing,’ making it uncomfortable for her to participate in any public events in Israel

        Reply to Comment
        • Ben

          But most interesting is the way Gideon Levy views this versus the way another Haaretz writer , Anshell Pfeffer, views it, which is, in my view, to completely miss the point. And the difference in their perspectives is crucial.

          Levy:
          That’s the Spirit, Ms. Portman, but It’s Just a Start
          https://www.haaretz.com/opinion/.premium-that-s-the-spirit-ms-portman-but-it-s-just-a-start-1.6014090
          “Netanyahu is indeed a problem, but he is not the problem over which Portman, as a person of good conscience and a Zionist, must make her voice heard. Netanyahu is Israel.” The elephant in the room is the occupation. And Portman says nothing directly at all about it.

          More to follow.

          Reply to Comment
        • Ben

          Pfeffer, in contrast basically recommends another round of hasbara: Netanyahu is not Israel, get rid of Netanyahu, disassociate brand Netanyahu from brand Israel, and you’ve solved the problem.

          Could a Bibi Boycott Work?
          Natalie Portman’s motives in declining to appear at the Genesis Prize ceremony aren’t important. The real question is whether the Netanyahu brand has grown toxic and if it can be disassociated from Israel
          https://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/.premium-could-a-bibi-boycott-work-1.6015192

          So we see Pfeffer blithely and dismissively say that Portman’s motives in declining to appear are not important, while Gideon Levy, correctly in my view, points out that Portman’s motives are what really matter; that is, how deeply versus superficially she sees the problem go, and her real reasons are what really matter, are the main point. Pfeffer seems to forget that plenty of Labor leaders before Netanyahu and before Likud started the occupation and nurtured it. The problem, as Levy says, is not Netanyahu, it’s Israel’s behavior for fifty years.

          Reply to Comment