Israel amassing its forces ahead of Nakba protests

Israeli soldiers are seen during Great March of Return protests east of Gaza City on 11 May.

Mohammed Zaanoun ActiveStills

Israeli forces killed a Palestinian protester and injured hundreds more during the seventh consecutive Friday of the Great March of Return demonstrations along Gaza’s eastern perimeter.

Jaber Salem Abu Mustafa, 38, died after he was shot in the chest east of Khan Younis. Forty-one Palestinians have been fatally injured during the protests that were launched on 30 March.

During that same period, Israeli forces killed 13 additional Palestinians in Gaza who were not participating in the protests when they were fatally wounded.

Nearly 200 people were injured by live fire on Friday. Ten persons were said to be critically wounded.

Three medics and six journalists were also reported injured.

Reporter Motasem Ahmed Dalloul was hit by live fire to the stomach, the Committee to Protect Journalists reported.

Mass protests are expected to continue next week with the opening of the US embassy of Jerusalem on 14 May, the 70th anniversary of the declaration of the state of Israel on Palestinian lands.

The Israeli military has “begun reinforcing battalions exponentially in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank” in the lead-up to what it says will be protests “far more violent and extensive than anything seen thus far,” the Israeli daily Haaretz reported.

“According to assessments, 100,000 protesters are expected in 17 flashpoints along the Gaza [boundary], compared to the five flashpoints during last Friday’s protest,” the paper stated on Friday.

The leadership of the Gaza protests has called for a Million Person March of Return next week.

Yahya Sinwar, the head of Hamas in Gaza, gave his blessing for the breaching of the Israeli boundary fence by thousands on Monday and Tuesday, when Palestinians will mark Nakba Day, the annual commemoration of the ethnic cleansing of Palestine.

Two-thirds of Gaza’s population of two million are refugees from the lands on which the state of Israel was declared in 1948. Israel has long prevented Palestinian refugees from returning to their lands and homes because they are not Jewish.

A graphic published by Visualizing Palestine shows the villages of origin of refugees killed during the Great March of Return protests:

Three Palestinian human rights groups are calling on diplomats and United Nations officials to boycott the opening of the Jerusalem embassy.

The relocation of the embassy to Jerusalem “only entrenches Israel’s longstanding impunity for its widespread and systematic violations against Palestinians,” the rights groups Al-Mezan, Adalah and Al-Haq stated in an open letter to the UN ecretary-general and High Commissioner for Human Rights this week.

“The longest unresolved question to fall under the responsibility of the UN, Palestine has become a litmus test for the efficacy of the international system as a whole and the willingness of the international community to abide by the rule of law and act in the face of widespread and systematic violations of international human rights and humanitarian law,” the groups add.

Fewer than half of the foreign diplomats invited to a reception on Sunday marking the move of the embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem have accepted, according to Israeli media reports. The event will reportedly be attended by Ivanka Trump and her husband Jared Kushner, as well as the US treasury secretary and elected American officials.

Protests broke out across the West Bank and Gaza Strip after Donald Trump declared US recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel on 6 December, breaking with decades of US policy.

That month the United Nations General Assembly adopted a resolution reaffirming the illegality of Israel’s annexation of Jerusalem following its capture in the 1967 War and called on states to refrain from establishing diplomatic missions in the city.

More than a dozen Palestinian human rights groups condemned the upcoming embassy move on Friday, stating that “By recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, the US is deliberately denying the existing situation of occupation and the applicability of international humanitarian and human rights law.”

The Palestinian Human Rights Organizations Council called on the Palestinian Authority to “immediately cease cooperating with the US as an arbiter for peace” and for states to halt aid to Israel and impose sanctions until it “ends its annexation and unlawful prolonged occupation of the Palestinian territory, ceases all breaches of international law, and ensures justice and accountability.”

Israel’s shooting of unarmed protesters in Gaza was meanwhile raised at the 95th session of the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination that convened over the past two and a half weeks.

In a statement issued under its early warning and urgent action procedures, intended to prevent and respond to violations of the International Convention Against All Forms of Racial Discrimination, the body expressed its grave concern that many protesters were killed or injured when they posed no imminent threat.

The body called for “an immediate end to the disproportionate use of force against Palestinian demonstrators,” lifting the blockade on Gaza and the implementation of appropriate measures “to combat the proliferation of racist acts and manifestations of racist hate speech that particularly target Palestinians in the territories under [Israel’s] effective control.”

Humanitarian bodies continue to sound the alarm that essential services in Gaza are on “the verge of collapse” after 11 years of blockade, repeated Israeli military assaults and Palestinian political impasse:
More than 2,500 Palestinians have been wounded by live fire during the Great March of Return protests, straining Gaza’s already beleaguered healthcare system, which has seen elective surgeries canceled and hospitals closed since the beginning of the year due to medication, equipment and fuel shortages.

“Out of the 148 types of drug items needed to respond to trauma casualties, only 107 (72 percent) are available in Gaza at present, while overall, 45 percent of essential drugs are at zero stock (less than one month’s supply) and 40 percent are completely depleted, according to the World Health Organization,” the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs stated on Friday.

“According to WHO, of the 29 patients injured in the demonstrations from 30 March to 4 May who have applied for Israeli permits to exit Gaza for health care, nine applications were approved (31 percent), significantly lower than the acceptance rate for such permits in the first quarter of 2018 (60 percent),” the UN body added.

Israel has previously admitted that it refused such requests as a form of punishment for protesting.

Some 7,800 hours of complex reconstructive surgery will be needed to save the limbs of Palestinian protesters in Gaza wounded by Israeli snipers, a group of international doctors stated this week.

“This is calculated maiming,” the doctors state in a letter published by the BMJ medical journal. “More may die or incur life-long disability because of the degraded state of health services and the prohibition by Israel of the transfer for the seriously wounded.”


Maureen Clare Murphy

Maureen Clare Murphy's picture

Maureen Clare Murphy is senior editor of The Electronic Intifada.