One year of Gaza’s Great March of Return

Young woman wearing kuffiyeh around her face holds Palestine flag as sun sets

Palestinians will mark the first anniversary of the Great March of Return on 30 March.

Mohammed Zaanoun ActiveStills

Gaza’s Great March of Return began a year ago, on 30 March 2018.

On that day, tens of thousands of Palestinians participated in tent city sit-ins and protests along Gaza’s eastern boundary to protest Israel’s decade-long siege on the territory.

Protesters were also demanding their right to return to the lands on the other side of the boundary fence from which their families had been forcibly displaced. Two-thirds of Gaza’s population of two million are refugees hailing from lands now inside Israel.

The launch of the Great March of Return coincided with Land Day, the annual commemoration of six Palestinians killed during protests against Israeli land confiscation in the Galilee in 1976.

Fifteen Palestinians were killed during the first day of the Great March of Return. Israel has used lethal force against unarmed demonstrators ever since.

Nearly 200 Palestinians have been killed during the protests and more than 6,500 others have been wounded by live fire. Despite Israel’s brutal crackdown, thousands participate in the demonstrations every week to demand their rights.

A UN commission of inquiry has found that Israel’s use of lethal force against protesters warrants criminal investigation and prosecution and may amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity.

A massive demonstration is expected this Saturday as Palestinians mark the first anniversary of the protest movement.

Palestinian, regional and international human rights groups have expressed “serious concerns” to the UN that “as the one-year mark approaches, the Israeli occupying forces will once again resort to lethal and other excessive force, including live ammunition, to suppress the protests, as per their practice over the past 51 weeks.”

The groups urged the UN “to take meaningful action to prevent further unnecessary loss of life and injury.”

Barring that, the groups said, “the UN will have sided with impunity over accountability.”

They specifically called on UN Secretary-General António Guterres and High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet to issue a public call demanding that Israel respect Palestinians’ right to life; call on Israel to release its rules of engagement; strengthen the UN’s field presence in Gaza; among other accountability measures, including bringing an end to Israel’s “unlawful closure of the Gaza Strip.”

“Being the longest unresolved question to fall under the responsibility of the UN, Palestine has also become a litmus test for the efficacy of the international system as a whole,” the groups added.

Here’s what UN investigators and human rights groups want the public to know about the Great March of Return and Israel’s deadly crackdown:

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Maureen Clare Murphy

Maureen Clare Murphy's picture

Maureen Clare Murphy is an associate editor of The Electronic Intifada and lives in Chicago.