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)