On April 13, Palestinians and Israelis were once again embroiled in a skirmish as a result of the Great Return March protest. The third Friday of mass protests led to 363 Palestinians being injured and 14 medics suffering the effects of tear gas inhalation. The Palestinian Health Ministry and the Red Crescent Society has also reported that 23 Palestinians were shot with live fire. These protests having been taking place along the Israel border.
Last week, the Israeli soldiers and Palestinian protestors were engaged in cross-firing with the smell of burning tires lingering in the air along with tear gas on the Gaza strip. According to the Palestinian officials, nine people were killed while several thousands were injured. However this death toll was less, compared to the first week of protests where 22 people were killed and among them, a journalist.
The protests were aimed at remonstrating against Israel’s blockade of Gaza, which took place in 2007 after Hamas took control over the Gaza strip. April 6 was the second consecutive Friday of mass protests known as the “March Return.” These protests are a series of demonstrations leading to the Nabaka day on May 15. For the Palestinians it is the annual day of celebrations of the displacement before the Israeli Declaration of Independence while Israel considers it their Independence Day.
The series of protests was planned by Hamas, the Palestinian Islamist Militia ruling Gaza to celebrate the Land Day and several other events. Israeli military officials have threatened to use live ammunition if necessary in the event of Palestinians damaging the barrier fence or penetrating it. The Israelis also released a video clip that showed protestors trying to cut the fence and throwing fire arms at the Israeli army. The Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) staffs considers this protest as an initiative by the Hamas for their own personal agenda
Gaza is a self- governing territory of the Palestinians. It lies on the eastern coast of theMediterranean Sea, with Egypt on one side and Israel on the other. This falls under the Jurisdiction of the Palestinian Government and is ruled by Hamas, a Palestinian Islamic organisation.
Hamas is aPalestinianSunni-Islamicfundamentalist organization that won the 2006 elections in the Palestinian Parliament and took over the Gaza strip after the2007 Battle of Gaza. The battle of Gaza was a military conflict that took place between the Fatah (Palestinian Nationalist political party) and Hamas after which Hamas removed the Fatah officials and took control over Gaza.
Though the Gaza strip is under the Palestinian Government, Israel maintains a direct control over both the external and internal power of Gaza, violating the Israeli disengagement plan from Gaza.
The disengagement plan took place in 2005. The plan was about the withdrawal of the Israeli army from Gaza and dismantlement of all Israeli settlements from the Gaza strip. However, even after this, Israel continues to exercise control over Gaza. The disengagement plan was criticised heavily by the Israelis for the way it was executed and also the aftermath of it was considered as a stigma. In 2006, a news report confirmed that the Palestinian people were leaving the Gaza strip due to economic and political pressure.
Hamas has been recognised as a terrorist group by many countries. Human Rights Watch has accused both the Israelis and Hamas of violating humanitarian laws and indulging in war crimes during the pre and post disengagement plan. These accusations include public execution, killing of civilians, and so on.
During the early days of the protest, Mahmoud al-Zahar, a senior Hamas leader, told reporters at the site of protests in Gaza City that “Today we are sending a message that our struggle is without arms and guns, and we will wait and see if the world receives the message, and pressures Israel to stop its crimes against our people. “And if the world fails to do so, we then will be obliged to use our arms.”
The numbers of protestors are reducing as each week passes by. Reports indicated that only one man was killed in the recent gunfire and it was a major decline considering the previous protests. Israel Defence Minister Avigdor Liberman tweeted, “From week to week there are fewer riots on our border with Gaza. Our resolve is well understood from the other side.” The number of injured in live fire has gone down to 23% from 53% as reported by the Palestine Health sources.
Dr. Ashraf al-Qedra, spokesperson of the Health Ministry in Gaza and several others have called for an intervention from international communities to stop the Israeli violations.
The United Nations has urged both sides to avoid violence and there were indications that Israel had broken international laws by using excessive force. While addressing the UN Security council (SC) a senior political leader said that the attacks and retaliations were frustrating hopes of any de-escalation. He also said that the crisis was the result of a collective failure to advance a political solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
These protests have turned into bloodsheds and the common goal of questioning the blockade seems to be forgotten. This bring a single question into our minds-Is the value of human life less important that all parties involved are ready to lose lives just to improve their own political agenda?
The speakers of UNSC have urged for a ceasefire and negotiations. They are also aiming to end the Israel- Palestine conflict. Only time will tell us whether the UN will be successful in this venture.