'We Want to Return to Our Land': Thousands of Palestinians Brave Israeli Sniper Fire at 'Great Return March'
Courtesy: V. Arun Kumar/ Newsclick

IT was bloody, but it had always been bloody- for Israeli military, the value for a life of Palestinian is not more than the cost of a bullet. As the wall of smoke from the tear gas fired by Israeli forces cleared, in three weeks more than 30 Palestinians lay dead. One was blown up by an Israeli tank shell, while the others were killed by Israeli snipers. Israel also deployed aerial drones to fire tear gas shells into the wave of unarmed protesters.

As tens of thousands of Palestinians embark on the ‘The Great Return March’- Israeli snipers opened fire at the protesters gathering at the Gaza-Israel border fence. The annual Land Day march is a 45-day-long series of events and protests planned to culminate on May 15 — Nakba Day. Nakba day, or the day of catastrophe, is the anniversary of the mass expulsion of Palestinians that preceded and followed the declaration of the state of Israel in 1948.

Seventy years ago, following the establishment of Israel, the then Prime Minister David Ben Gurion is reported to have ordered the army to shoot and kill any Palestinian who dared to cross into the land they had claimed. The IDF continued with that very same policy during the Great Return March.

Israel has deployed more than 100 snipers from special forces units near the Gaza border with orders to fire at any Palestinians who approach the military buffer zone.

The march, one of the largest this year, is a commemoration of Palestinians killed by Israel forces during the general strike and protest against the Israeli annexation of land in Galilee region in 1976. Since then every year, the event organised by Palestinians in the occupied territories and abroad is a symbol of resistance against Israeli occupation and colonialism, and for the right of return of Palestinians.

Several videos have surfaced, however, showing Israeli snipers -  positioned behind dirt mounds on the other side of the border fence - shooting and killing the unarmed protesters. Many were shot in the back.

In one video, 19-year-old Abdel Fattah Abdel Nabi is shot in the back as he runs while holding a tyre (tyres are often burned by protesters to provide smokescreens as protection from security forces).

In another video, Tahrir Abu-Sabla, is seen with other protesters dozens of meters away from the border fence, waving his hands in the air. The next moment, a bullet from an Israeli sniper pierces his head.

Shai Eluk, a former Israeli soldier who was on duty during the Land Day protest in 2012, says , “I was on the border with Gaza six years ago. The same marchers, the same protest. Even the orders to open fire at crowds of people remained the same.”

Meanwhile, the Israeli Defence Minister has shot down the global calls for an inquiry into the killings in Gaza. It very rarely that Israeli soldiers are tried and convicted of killing Palestinians even as such incidents continue with near impunity.

According to available data, between 2003-2012, 179 cases were opened against soldiers suspected of homicide of Palestinians.  Of these, only 16 led into indictments, of which only six ended in convictions related to homicide. Only one of the convicted soldiers served more than a year in prison -.  Taysir Hayb, who got an 8-year jail term for killing British anti-occupation activist Thomas Hurndall.

This year's Land day march is happening in the background of United States decision to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. Despite international opposition, US President Donald Trump announced that the US embassy will be moved from Tel Aviv to the holy city around the Nakba day. In December last year, the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) in an emergency session voted, near unanimously, against the Trump’s Jerusalem move and declared it as in violation of international law. Eight Palestinians inside Gaza were killed protesting against the Trump’s decision.

Meanwhile, at the United Nations, for the second week in a row, the U.S. vetoed a U.N. Security Council (UNSC) statement calling for an independent inquiry into the killing of Palestinians in Gaza by the IDF. Earlier, a similar statement sponsored by Kuwait was vetoed by the U.S.

Medical Emergency in Gaza

Already reeling under a severe humanitarian crisis due to the long-running Israeli blockade, hospitals in Gaza are currently overwhelmed by the large number of injured and is in urgent need of anesthesia and other essentials. According to the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), the Gaza Ministry of Health reported that hospitals were running out of medical supplies needed for emergency and trauma management, and replacements from the Ministry of Health in Ramallah were yet to arrive

It is feared that as the day of Nakba approaches, Israel’s violent response will be intensified. U.S. President Donald Trump had said that the shifting of the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, which has been widely condemned internationally, will take place during the Nakba, which Israel celebrates as its day of establishment.

Amid the massacre by Israeli forces, Palestinians refuse to bow down to the occupation and continue to bravely resist till their land is free!


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