16 killed, hun­dreds in­jured as Gazans stage mas­sive protest

Sev­eral demon­stra­tors tell Arab News they will con­tinue protest­ing un­til May 15


by all the ma­jor po­lit­i­cal fac­tions in Gaza, threat­ened to de­scend into chaos as the dead and wounded were fer­ried away and sec­tions of the huge crowd scat­tered in panic.

But sev­eral demon­stra­tors who spoke to Arab News vowed to con­tinue protest­ing un­til May 15, when Pales­tini­ans com­mem­o­rate the Nakba, or catas­tro­phe — the cre­ation of Is­rael.

“We are here to de­liver a mes­sage to the world that we de­serve life and we want a de­cent life,” said Samir Al-Mad­houn, 45, as he sat with his fam­ily about 800 me­ters from the bor­der. He added that he hoped the protest would unite peo­ple in Gaza again, af­ter years of ten­sion be­tween Ha­mas and Fatah.

“This day brings the com­pass back to the main is­sue, to the is­sue of the con­flict with the Is­raeli oc­cu­pa­tion, which is the cause of the cri­sis we are liv­ing in. The world must in­ter­vene to re­store our rights.”

The tens of thou­sands of pro­test­ers trav­eled in buses from across Gaza to five lo­ca­tions along the bor­der, ready to stay put for the next six weeks. Many of them sat calmly be­side tents erected for the oc­ca­sion, while oth­ers edged closer to the Is­raeli sol­diers who were watch­ing from mounds of sand.

In a com­mon but fu­tile ges­ture of re­sis­tance, sev­eral youths threw stones at the troops. Other pro­test­ers hurled petrol bombs and set fire to tires. How­ever, Arab News saw no in­di­ca­tion of any shots be­ing fired from the Pales­tinian side.

Be­fore the worst of the day's vi­o­lence, Ha­mas po­lit­i­cal leader Ismail Haniyeh told the demon­stra­tors that the march would be recorded as the mo­ment Pales­tini­ans be­gan to re­claim their an­ces­tral homes.

Speak­ing be­fore Fri­day prayers, he said: “Our peo­ple say to Trump ‘no con­ces­sion on Jerusalem … no con­ces­sion and no recog­ni­tion of the oc­cu­pa­tion of any inch of our land.'”

The Is­raeli Army had warned in ad­vance that the protest might de­scend into blood­shed. A few days ear­lier it had dropped leaflets into Gaza, warn­ing that any­one who got closer than 300 me­ters to the bor­der risked be­ing shot.

On Fri­day morn­ing, Is­raeli De­fense Min­is­ter Avig­dor Lieber­man is­sued a tweet in Ara­bic crit­i­ciz­ing Ha­mas and warn­ing peo­ple “not to en­gage in provo­ca­tion.”

Is­rael has im­posed a crip­pling air, sea and land block­ade on Gaza since 2007, when Ha­mas took con­trol of the strip. The siege has dev­as­tated the econ­omy and in­fra­struc­ture of one of the most densely pop­u­lated places on earth.

Fri­day's protest was timed to co­in­cide with “Land Day,” an an­nual event when Pales­tini­ans re­mem­ber the deaths of six Arab cit­i­zens killed by Is­raeli forces dur­ing demon­stra­tions over land con­fis­ca­tions in north­ern Is­rael in 1976.

Gazans now have more dead to re­mem­ber. AP re­ported that the first of Fri­day's fa­tal­i­ties was a 27-yearold farmer, Amr Samour, killed by Is­raeli tank fire in the south­east­ern cor­ner of the strip. But even as the num­ber of dead and in­jured be­gan to grow, the pro­test­ers tried to re­main de­fi­ant.

“Life in the Gaza Strip is dif­fi­cult,” Emad Abu Asser told Arab News. “There is no hope for the peo­ple, there is no work and peo­ple are tired of these con­di­tions. This march should be a means of pres­sure on all par­ties to bring about change.

“We have noth­ing to lose. We are al­ready at the bot­tom and we need a bet­ter life.”

The first of Fri­day’s fa­tal­i­ties was a 27-year-old farmer, Amr Samour, killed by Is­raeli tank fire in the south­east­ern cor­ner of the Gaza Strip. (AP)

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