According to Al Mezan, a human rights group based in Gaza, Israeli warplanes launched two missiles at a group of protesters late Monday night when they approached the boundary fence east of Khan Younis in southern Gaza.
The bodies of Naji Abu Assi, 16, and Alaa Abu Assi, 19, were recovered by Palestinian medics hours later. “Both had shrapnel injuries on various parts of their bodies and one of them was torn to pieces,” Al Mezan stated.
Around 140 Palestinians have been killed during demonstrations along Gaza’s eastern boundary since the launch of the Great March of Return series of protests on 30 March.
Those killed during the protests have included nearly 30 children, as well as two journalists and three paramedics, and three persons with disabilities, according to Al Mezan.
Some 5,500 have been injured by live fire during the protests, including 900 children.
Amnesty International has said it has not found any evidence of protesters posing a threat to the lives of soldiers behind the fence that would justify the use of deadly force.
The protests, which have been held every Friday since their launch, have increased in frequency in recent days. Protests have been held on weekdays “and include naval marches and night sit-ins near the separation fence – activities which do not threaten the life or safety of Israeli soldiers,” Al Mezan stated.
The protests are calling for an end to Israel’s blockade on Gaza, now in its 11th year, and in support of the right of refugees to return to their original lands and property on the other side of the Gaza boundary fence.
Two-thirds of Gaza’s population of two million are refugees.
“We will continue”
“We will continue our peaceful marches to fulfill our demands and liberate our lands,” one protester says in this video:
“مستمرون في مسيراتنا السلمية حتى تحقيق مطالبنا وتحرير أراضينا”.. الشبان يوجهون نداءً للوقوف مع غزة وكسر الحصار عن شعبها في جمعة “كسر الحصار”. pic.twitter.com/ntCZyVrJnd
The young man urges leaders in the Arab world, whom he accuses of complicity with Israel, to stand with the Palestinian people in Gaza resisting the siege.
Yahya Sinwar, the leader of the Hamas movement in Gaza, said on Friday the ongoing protests show the world “how the Palestinian people on their land are a model of giving, loyalty, sacrifice and the service of humanity.”
خلال مشاركته في مسيرات جمعة “كسر الحصار”.. رئيس المكتب السياسي لحماس بغزة يحيى السنوار: “هذه المسيرات انطلقت لتحقيق هدف شعبنا في فك الحصار”. pic.twitter.com/UfASnamlUM
Occupation forces are said to be operating under orders to use live fire against Palestinians launching incendiary kites and balloons, which have landed in southern Israel in recent days.
Collective punishment threat
The head of COGAT, the bureaucratic apparatus of Israel’s military occupation of the West Bank and Gaza, said that collective punishment measures would be used against the general population in Gaza.
Apparently referring to naval protests held earlier this week, Kamil Abu Rukun stated that “The Hamas terror organization is using fishermen and forcing them to participate in riots.”
Abu Rukun said that the Israeli military would “use an iron fist” against such “rioters” and would reduce the permitted fishing area from 6 to 3 nautical miles off the Gaza coast.
Under the 1993 Oslo accords signed by Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization, Gaza’s fishing zone was supposed to extend 20 nautical miles out from shore. But Israel has never allowed this and the furthest Gaza’s fishers have been able to sail has been 12 nautical miles out.
Over the past decade, Israel has reduced the permitted fishing area to 6 nautical miles, and sometimes less, and has frequently fired on fishing boats.
Israel has killed eight fishers since 2000, according to Al Mezan.
Three Palestinians were killed during pre dawn Israeli airstrikes on the besieged Gaza Strip Thursday. Among the dead were a woman, who was nine months pregnant, and her 18-month-old daughter.
The Palestinian Ministry of Health in Gaza identified the pregnant woman as 23-year-old Inas Khamash, and her 18-month-old daughter as Bayan Khamash.
The two were killed when an Israeli airstrike hit their home in the Jaafari area of central Gaza. Khamash’s husband, Muhammad, was severely injured during the strike.
While some local media outlets were reporting that Muhammad succumbed to his wounds early Thursday afternoon, the Gaza Ministry of Health has maintained that he is still in critical condition and being treated in the ICU.
In a statement on Twitter, the army said the strikes were “conducted in response to the rockets launched from Gaza at Israel throughout the night,” adding that 180 rockets – at least 30 of which were intercepted by Israel’s “Iron Dome” defense system – were fired from the Gaza Strip.
Israeli media outlets reported that 11 Israelis were injured in the town of Sderot. One woman was reported to be in serious condition, while nine others were taken to the hospital. Thirteen other Israelis were reportedly treated for “shock.”
An Israeli army spokesperson told Mondoweiss that they could not confirm the number of Israelis reportedly injured.
The Israeli army said they held Hamas “fully responsible” for the escalation in violence, and that it was “determined to secure the safety of Israelis, is on high alert, & prepared for a variety of scenarios.”
“Hamas is responsible & bears the consequences for the ongoing events,” the army said on Twitter.
The army’s rhetoric has been echoed by Israeli politicians and government bodies over the course of Thursday, with the Foreign Ministry saying that Israel was “defending itself from from Hamas’ aggression.”
The US envoy to the Middle East Jason Greenblatt released the following statement on Twitter: “Hamas regime again is launching rockets at Israeli communities. Another night of terror & families huddling in fear as Israel defends itself. This is the Hamas regime’s choice. Hamas is subjecting people to the terrifying conditions of war again.”
Neither Greenblatt, the foreign ministry, nor the army made any mention of the killing of Inas Khimash and her daughter Bayan.
The family’s neighbor told RT that he heard “a huge explosion” and then rushed onto the street. He saw “big huge smoke” coming from the Khammash’s house. When he entered the house, he said he saw the bodies. “We found the woman’s body shattered into pieces, her little daughter too,” he said, adding that the woman’s husband was injured in the leg, stomach, and head. Hamas official Fawzi Barhoum said in a statement that it was Israel who was responsible for the violence, and that “in the event of continued aggression, shelling and killing of the Palestinian people in Gaza, the resistance will not be silent. It’s duty to respond and break the occupation.”
On Twitter, Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri echoed similar sentiments, and called on the international community to “shoulder its responsibilities towards Israel’s aggression and siege.”
Thursday’s events are the latest in a series of severe flare ups over the past few months in Gaza, leading many local and international officials to speculate that another large-scale Israeli offensive on the Palestinian territory could be imminent.
Israeli newspaper Haaretzquoted an unnamed senior Israeli commander as saying that the military is “nearing launching an operation in the Gaza Strip” if the current situation persists.
The official told Haaretz that Hamas “will pay the price for its violations in the last four months,” seemingly referring to the ongoing Great March of Return protests that began on March 30th, over which time Israeli forces have killed at least 160 Palestinians and injured 17,000 more.
“Hamas must go back to the understandings after the [2014 Gaza war], and if it doesn’t, it will understand the hard way,” Haaretz quoted the officer as saying.
With fears of a new Israeli onslaught on the horizon, reports have emerged of the UN scrambling to negotiate a ceasefire.
UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, Nikolay Mladenov, said in a statement issued on early Thursday that he was “deeply alarmed by the recent escalation of violence.”
“For months I have been warning that the humanitarian, security and political crisis in Gaza risk a devastating conflict that nobody wants. The UN has engaged with Egypt and all concerned parties in an unprecedented effort to avoid such a development,” he said.
Mladenov added that “if the current escalation however is not contained immediately, the situation can rapidly deteriorate with devastating consequences for all people.”
The Gaza Strip is home to more than 2 million Palestinians, over 70% of which are refugees who were forcibly expelled from their homes in present-day Israel when the state was established in 1948.
A more than decade-long Israeli air, land, and sea blockade has crippled Gaza’s economy, which boasts one of the highest unemployment rates in the world at 44 percent, leaving an estimated 80 percent of the territory’s population dependent on humanitarian assistance.
Gaza has often been compared to an “open air prison,” and in 2015, the UN warned that the it could become “unlivable” by 2020 if nothing was done to improve the situation.
Yumna Patel is a multimedia freelance journalist based in Bethlehem, Palestine. You can find her on twitter @yumna_patel.
Mustafa Abu Zahra, Head of the Committee for the Preservation of Islamic Cemeteries in Jerusalem (Photo: Saleh Zghari)
Just outside the walls of the Old City in occupied East Jerusalem, a years long demographic battle between the Israeli state and Palestinian residents of the city has found new life in recent weeks.
Right-wing settler NGO Elad, also known as the City of David Foundation, celebrated a win last week when the Interior and Environment Committee of the Knesset, Israel’s parliament, advanced a bill that would allow for the construction of Jewish settlement housing to be built inside areas zoned for national parks within municipal boundaries.
The bill, which was introduced last year, proposed that settlement construction be allowed inside the boundaries of archaeological national parks where a “neighborhood” had existed before the park was declared, referring to conglomerates of Jewish settlers living on Palestinian land.
Israeli newspaper Haaretz noted that the Elad-managed City of David national park, built on lands of the Palestinian town of Silwan, “seems to be the only park in all of Israel that meets these criteria for residential construction.”
Palestinian activists have condemned the bill’s hypocrisy, pointing to the fact that the nearly 4,000 Palestinian residents of the Wadi Hilweh neighborhood of Silwan, where the City of David site is located, have been prevented for years by the Israeli government from any type of building or construction work under the pretext of preserving the national park.
Jawad Siyam of the Wadi Hilweh Information Center spoke to Mondoweiss, and criticized Israeli attempts to further entrench its settlement enterprise in East Jerusalem, specifically Silwan, and its “Judaization” of the city.
“This is all done with the intention of emptying Jerusalem of Palestinians and part of the plans to make Jerusalem a Jewish-majority city,” he said.
Aviv Tatarsky, a researcher at left-wing Israeli NGO Ir Amim, echoed Siyam’s sentiments in a statement to Mondoweiss.
“National Parks have been hugely misused by Israel in East Jerusalem as a one of the means to severely limit Palestinian residential areas in order to realize the Israeli demographic policy of ensuring a Jewish majority in Jerusalem,” Tatarsky said, adding that the policy creates pressures that “encourage” East Jerusalemites to leave the city.
One of the starkest examples of such policies, Tatarsky noted, is the City of David national park, which is run by Elad.
According to Tatarsky, the Israeli government’s restrictions on Palestinian construction in Wadi Hilweh has resulted in it being “one of the most neglected neighborhoods of the city.”
“In reality through the national park, Israel is trying to put the [Jewish] past over the neighborhood’s Palestinian present, it tries to put the touristic park over the reality of a Palestinian neighborhood,” he said.
While the approval of the Elad-backed construction bill marked an effort by the organization to receive official government approval for its plans in Wadi Hilweh, Tatarsky told Mondoweiss that the organization has been illegally settling Israelis in Silwan with the government’s knowledge and approval for the better part of 30 years.
“Over the last 30 years Elad has gotten control – many times through dubious means and with the backing of Israeli authorities – of Palestinian homes in the neighborhoods,” Tatarsky said.
“Many times the families who lived in the homes lost title to it because of Israeli legislation which made it possible to take their property away from them. Today Elad controls some 70 housing units in the neighborhood which is home to over 4,000 Palestinians,” he added.
According to Tatarsky, the proposed bill is designed specifically to help Elad circumvent restrictions on construction in national parks, in order to expand its settlement compounds in the neighborhood.
He noted that one of the supporters of the bill is the Israeli Nature and Parks Authority (INPA), whose director for the Jerusalem district was a former high ranking member of Elad.
Haaretz quoted the INPA as saying it “attaches great importance to advancing the bill that will legally regulate the integration of residential buildings within a national park area around the walls of Jerusalem and the City of David.”
Tatarsky raised the point that while in theory the bill’s passing could enable the Palestinian residents of Wadi Hilweh to finally build on their land, in reality, it remains highly unlikely.
“Whoever is familiar with the realities of the planning policy in the city knows that whereas Elad will be able to swiftly promote its construction plans, Palestinian efforts will have to face many hurdles (political hurdles disguised as bureaucratic ones) and it is very doubtful that they will benefit from the legislation,” he said. Then he went on, “Expanding the settlement in Silwan will have direct consequences disrupting the lives of the local Palestinian population. In the long run it will further solidify Israel’s hold around the Old City making it ever more difficult to arrive at a future agreement which will allow for a Palestinian capital in the city without which we can not arrive at an end of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”
Disrupting the dead
Though the bill will still need to pass through three Knesset readings before going into final preparations, the consequences of Elad’s new settlement plans around the Old City are already being felt by local Palestinians. This time, by the deceased.
In recent weeks, the INPA has resumed digging at the Palestinian Bab al-Rahma cemetery, part of which sits in Silwan just beyond the wall of the Old City, adjacent to the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound.
The Bab al-Rahma, or “Gate of Mercy,” cemetery is the final resting place to generations of Palestinians and others from the Arab world, its origins dating back more than 1,000 years. As one of the most important Muslim cemeteries in Jerusalem, Palestinians from Silwan and other parts of East Jerusalem have long buried their dead there.
Locals told Mondoweiss that INPA staff began digging up graves and empty land in the cemetery, and that in May, authorities placed metal fences around the parts of the cemetery that it intends on confiscating in order to create a trail for tourists in the City of David national park.
Mustafa Abu Zahra, Head of the Committee for the Preservation of Islamic Cemeteries in Jerusalem, told Mondoweiss that Israeli attacks on the cemetery began as early as the 1970’s, and have resurfaced over the years.
According to Abu Zahra, at least one quarter of an acre of the cemetery — where several hundred Egyptian soldiers who fought in historic Palestine are buried — has been confiscated by the INPA, preventing Palestinians from accessing the area.
“Many times they have destroyed parts of the cemetery, especially in the Egyptian part. Any time we try to build new graves in the cemetery, the Israeli Nature Parks Authority comes to destroy them,” Abu Zahra said, adding that he fears the cemetery will eventually be completely confiscated and closed off to Palestinian use.
“The Israelis want most of the cemetery to be destroyed and made part of the park. The main corridor of the cemetery will be used as a main pathway through the park, connecting the City of David to the Masjid Al-Aqsa compound,” he said.
Abu Zahra, who sees himself as one of the most vital protectors of the cemetery, says that the cemetery acts as a barrier that “protects” Al-Aqsa. He fears its confiscation would highly endanger Muslim claims to the holy site.
“This cemetery sits right under the wall of Al-Aqsa. So if they take this cemetery, the whole area surrounding Al-Aqsa will be under Israeli control,” he told Mondoweiss.
“Bab al-Rahma is one of the most important parts of Jerusalem history,” Abu Zahra said, “Israel is trying to kill any part of Muslim or Palestinian culture in Jerusalem.”
“This is a violation of international law, and part of Israel’s ongoing Judaization of Jerusalem. This cemetery represents our culture, our life, our history, and Israel is trying to erase all of this,” he said.
About Yumna Patel
Yumna Patel is a multimedia freelance journalist based in Bethlehem, Palestine. You can find her on twitter @yumna_patel.
Palestinians mourn during the funeral of 21-year-old Rawan al-Najjar, carrying her body with on top her medic vest soaked in blood, in the city of Khan Yunis, Gaza Strip, June 2nd, 2018 (Photo: Mohammed Zaanoun/ Activestills.org)
Today, Palestinians mourned the funeral of 21-year-old Rawan al-Najjar, carrying her body with on top her medic vest soaked in blood, in the city of Khan Yunis, Gaza Strip.
Razan al-Najjar was a medic who was shot the day before by an Israeli sniper as she was attempted to reach the injured during the protest at the Gaza fence, near Khuza’a.
According to health ministry spokesman, Najjar was a volunteer with the ministry, wearing the white uniform of a medic when she was shot in the chest.
Thousands of Palestinians protested at several locations along the Gaza fence on Friday, calling for their right of return and the end of the siege on Gaza. Since the beginning of the Great Return March, a wave of protests started on Land Day and officially finished on Nakba Day, but continued afterwards, 123 protesters were killed by the Israeli army, and thousands were injured by live ammunition.
About Mohammed Zaanoun
Mohammed Zaanoun is a photojournalist with Activestills.
Israel’s high court rejected two petitions from human rights groups challenging the military’s open-fire regulations this week as several more Palestinians died from wounds sustained during Gaza’s ongoing Great March of Return protests.
The high court ruling may be viewed by the International Criminal Court as an indication that Israel’s judicial authorities are unwilling to carry out genuine proceedings concerning crimes against Palestinian civilians.
Between 19 and 25 May, Gaza’s health ministry announced the deaths of seven Palestinians from injuries inflicted during protests along the eastern perimeter of the territory beginning 30 March.
The deceased were identified as Hussein Salem Abu Oweida, 41, Ahmad al-Abed Abu Samra, 21, Muhammad Mazen Alayan, 20, Muin Abd al-Hamid al-Saee, 58, Muhannad Abu Tahoun, 21, Ahmad Qatoush, 23 and Yasir Sami Saad al-Din Habib, 24.
Also this week a 15-year-old in the occupied West Bank, Oday Akram Abu Khalil, died from wounds sustained when he was shot in the stomach by Israeli forces during protests on 15 May, the annual commemoration of the 1948 Nakba or catastrophe.
A lightly wounded soldier was the only reported Israeli casualty resulting from the protests in Gaza.
Court sides with state – again
The Israeli high court ruled in favor of the state’s argument that protesters constituted a danger to Israeli soldiers and civilians, thus justifying the use of lethal force.
The judges sided with the government’s contention that the protests take place in the context of a long-running armed conflict between Israel and Hamas. The state argues that the legal framework that regulates the use of fire during the protests is international humanitarian law, or the laws of war.
Human rights groups say that irrespective of the political affiliation of any of the organizers or participants, the demonstrations along Gaza’s eastern perimeter are a civilian matter of law enforcement governed by the framework of international human rights law, which allows for the use of deadly force only to stop an imminent lethal threat.
“Some of the rioters have tried to trample or break through the border fence, creating a clear and present danger that terrorists will penetrate into the state’s territory, and this is happening in areas near towns on the Israeli side,” wrote Hanan Melcer, one of the three judges who reviewed the petitions.
“Among the rioters were some who threw rocks and fire bombs at Israeli troops. Therefore, it seems that gunfire was employed to achieve a legal purpose – defending citizens of the state and Israeli soldiers,” Melcer added.
The court ruling gives the military “a green light to its continued use of snipers and live fire against Palestinian protesters in the Gaza Strip,” stated Al Mezan and Adalah, two of the groups that had petitioned the court.
The two groups stated that the court had “refused to watch video clips documenting Israeli shootings of demonstrators and, rather than actually examining the case, fully accepted the claims presented to it by the state.”
Al Mezan and Adalah published a video montage of such clips:
“The extreme nature of the ruling is also highlighted by the striking absence of any mention of the casualty figures that had been presented to the court,” the human rights groups added.
The Israeli high court said it could not move forward with an inquiry into the military’s rules of engagement because petitioning organizations rejected a request by the state to present the judges secret intelligence without the petitioners being allowed to review it.
“We have no concrete information about the identity of the key activists and inciters, the nature of their acts, their organizational affiliation, their involvement in terrorist activity or other forbidden hostile activity, or whether and in what manner they constituted a clear and present danger,” Melcer stated.
The justices accepted the state’s description of the Gaza protests as “violent disturbances” which were “organized, coordinated and directed by Hamas, which is a terrorist organization in a state of armed conflict with Israel.”
No imminent threat
Adalah and Al Mezan stated that the court ruling “contradicts the conclusions and preliminary results of international human rights organizations and United Nations bodies documenting and evaluating the events in Gaza.”
During a special session of the UN Human Rights Council concerning the events in Gaza last week, the body’s High Commissioner Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein stated:
“Although some of the demonstrators threw Molotov cocktails, used slingshots to throw stones, flew burning kites into Israel, and attempted to use wire-cutters against the two fences between Gaza and Israel, these actions alone do not appear to constitute the imminent threat to life or deadly injury which could justify the use of lethal force.”
Tania Hary, executive director of Gisha, an Israeli human rights group which challenged the open-fire regulations, said she was “disappointed but not surprised to see the court again sanction Israel’s grave violations of human rights and international law in Gaza.”
Israel’s high court has long championed policies towards Palestinians that violate international law.
Gisha has previously faulted Israel’s judiciary, and principally the high court, for accepting “the state’s legal positions almost unquestioningly” regarding the 11-year blockade of Gaza.
Palestinian human rights groups have urged the International Criminal Court to investigate the unprecedented closure of Gaza as a crime of persecution.
The Palestinian Authority’s foreign minister made a referral to the International Criminal Court on Tuesday, calling for an immediate investigation into Israeli crimes.
In 2015, the court launched a preliminary examination into potential war crimes in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip.
Preliminary examination by ICC
A preliminary examination is the first step in the court’s process to determine whether to open a formal investigation, which can then lead to indictments and trials.
But while a preliminary examination is carried out whenever a referral is made, it is open-ended and can carry on for years, at the discretion of the chief prosecutor.
In 2006, the prosecutor began a preliminary examination of alleged crimes committed in Afghanistan from 2002.
Eleven years after the examination was opened, and up to 15 years after the commission of the first alleged crimes, the prosecutor concluded that there was enough evidence to proceed with a formal investigation into alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity by the Taliban, the Afghan government and the United States.
A preliminary examination into alleged crimes against humanity and war crimes in Colombia, opened in 2004, is still pending, according to the Coalition for the International Criminal Court.
In her response to the Palestinian complaint, chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda signaled that she does not intend to expedite the process, stating that the “preliminary examination has seen important progress and will continue to follow its normal course.”
Israel’s foreign ministry lashed out against the Palestinian move, calling it an effort “to politicize the court and to derail it from its mandate.”
The Palestinian rights groups Al-Haq, Al Mezan and the Palestinian Center for Human Rights stated this week that they “have submitted five comprehensive communications to the prosecutor” as part of the court’s preliminary examination.
“These communications have related to the 2014 offensive against the Gaza Strip, the Israeli-imposed Gaza closure, the use of the Hannibal Directive in Rafah, and crimes committed in the West Bank including Jerusalem,” the groups stated, adding that they “have also provided information on the lack of domestic investigations and prosecutions.”
The prosecutor “has sufficient evidence” to open a full investigation, according to the rights groups.
“The ICC acting as a court of last resort must provide redress to Palestinian victims,” they added.
Israeli occupation forces killed 58 Palestinians in Gaza on Monday as tens of thousands protested along the eastern perimeter of the territory.
Monday’s death toll is likely to climb higher as 70 were in critical condition and Gaza hospitals struggled to triage the staggering number of casualties.
The health ministry reported nearly 2,800 injuries – almost half of them by live fire.
Held on the eve of Nakba Day – when Palestinians commemorate the ethnic cleansing of their homeland before, during and after the establishment of the state of Israel in May 1948 – the demonstrations may have been the biggest protest ever held in the territory.
Monday marked the largest number of casualties in a single day in Gaza since Israel’s massive military assault that claimed more than 2,200 Palestinian lives in the summer of 2014, and was said to be the largest number of protester fatalities in a single day in the territory since the first intifada that began 30 years ago.
Protests are expected to continue on Tuesday.
Monday’s protests were held under the banner of the Great March of Return demonstrations, launched on 30 March, when Palestinians mark Land Day. The six-week protest was originally planned to culminate around Nakba Day.
Nearly 100 Palestinians, including 12 children, have been killed by Israeli forces during Great March of Return protests since 30 March.
While American officials and Israeli leaders celebrated the opening of the US embassy in Jerusalem – in violation of international law – occupation army snipers gunned down children, paramedics and journalists and its air force hit multiple sites across Gaza on Monday.
The Palestinian human rights group Al Mezan reported that 42 of those killed were participating in peaceful protests when they were injured on Monday.
Paramedic Mousa Jaber Abu Hassanein was among those killed:
Fifteen Palestinians, including two children, were killed when Israeli forces fired artillery shells and opened fire at a crowd of civilians east of Jabaliya in the northern Gaza Strip, according to Al Mezan.
Israel claimed that its forces killed three militants attempting to place explosives near the Gaza-Israel boundary fence near the Rafah crossing with Egypt.
United Nations humanitarian coordinator Jamie McGoldrick stated that doctors at al-Shifa, Gaza’s largest hospital, “are overwhelmed, dealing with hundreds of cases of injured, including women and children. They are stretched to the limit and are running out of essential medical supplies.”
He added that “Particularly worrying is that public hospitals in Gaza have less than a week of fuel reserves to continue their operations.”
Gaza’s health ministry put out an urgent call for blood donations to save the lives of those wounded.
On Monday, the Israeli military reported its first injury since the Great March of Return protests began. A soldier was lightly wounded and taken to hospital for treatment, the first Israeli casualty resulting from the protests, according to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.
Israeli forces have injured nearly 13,000 Palestinians during the Great March of Return protests, and some 6,800 injuries have required hospitalization, more than half of them caused by live ammunition.
Jason Cone, the US director of Doctors Without Borders, stated on Friday that “Even though there is not a war in Gaza, the injuries sustained by our patients are terribly similar to what we see in conflict zones,” with fist-size exit wounds and “bone … pulverized into dust.”
Gaza’s health ministry has called on Egypt to provide its hospitals with drugs and emergency medical supplies and to allow for the transfer of patients requiring specialized treatment unavailable in the Strip.
Gaza-based writer and scholar Refaat Alareer, who was present at Monday’s protests, told The Electronic Intifada Podcast that “every single minute, you would hear a shot here or there, and then someone would fall down.”
Ten journalists were injured on Monday in what Al Mezan observed was an escalation of the Israeli military’s targeted attacks on members of the press covering the Great March of Return protests.
Photojournalist Yasir Qudih, whose work has frequently appeared on The Electronic Intifada, was critically injured. Qudih had taken an iconic photo of a protester using a table tennis paddle to hit back a gas canister during a demonstration earlier in the month:
Another journalist, Motasem Dalloul, was reportedly fighting for his life after being shot by the Israeli army while covering the protests on Friday.
The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights condemned the “shocking killing of dozens” in Gaza, calling for “those responsible for outrageous human rights violations” to be held to account.
The dissonant images of US and Israeli officials celebrating the opening of the Jerusalem embassy and of Palestinians being subjected to brutal violence in Gaza drew the scorn of many on social media.
Washington blamed Palestinians for their own deaths while President Donald Trump, whose daughter and son-in-law presided over the Jerusalem embassy opening, congratulated Israel on what he called its “big day.”
“The responsibility for these tragic deaths rests squarely with Hamas,” deputy White House press secretary Raj Shah stated during a press briefing on Monday. “Hamas is intentionally and cynically provoking this response and … Israel has the right to defend itself.”
The White House statement echoed Israeli government talking points, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu insisting on Monday that “Hamas clearly says its intentions are to destroy Israel and sends thousands to break through the border for that end. We will continue to act with resolve to defend our sovereignty and our citizens.”
Israel’s public security minister Gilad Erdan – whose portfolio includes sabotaging the global boycott, divestment and sanctions movement in support of Palestinian rights – blamed Hamas’ leadership and what he called its “cynical and malicious use of bloodshed.”
He downplayed the mounting Gaza protest death toll, stating that it “doesn’t indicate anything – just as the number of Nazis who died in the world war doesn’t make Nazism something you can explain or understand,” according to Haaretz.
The European Union meanwhile drew false parity between unarmed civilians protesting in Gaza and the heavily armed forces maintaining an 11-year blockade and half-century-long military occupation of the territory:
Turkey withdrew its envoys from both Israel and the US in protest of the move of the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
Four Palestinian human rights groups on Monday called on the UN Security Council to convene an emergency session to address Israel’s violence in Gaza and demand that Israel immediately lift its closure and blockade.
The groups called on the Security Council to “Implement all options to protect Palestinian civilians” and establish an independent and impartial investigation into Israel’s use of lethal force against Great March of Return protesters.
The Israeli rights group B’Tselem stated that “The fact that live gunfire is once again the sole measure that the Israeli military is using in the field evinces appalling indifference towards human life on the part of senior Israeli government and military officials.”
B’Tselem reiterated its call on soldiers to “refuse to comply with these manifestly unlawful open-fire orders.”
According to Israeli media, soldiers are ordered “to prevent demonstrators from crossing into Israel at any price, including use of live fire.”
If any Palestinians do manage to cross the boundary, Haaretz reported, “the orders are to shoot directly at them with intent to hit, to prevent them from getting into these communities.”
Sarah Leah Whitson of Human Rights Watch stated that Israel’s open fire policies “resulted in a bloodbath that anyone could have foreseen.”
On Monday morning the military dropped leaflets on Gaza warning Palestinians that they risked death by participating in the protests.
Al Mezan reported that the military had flattened sand dunes built up by demonstrators to provide cover from Israeli fire, “indicating an assumed intention on the part of the military to improve visibility for the purpose of targeting protesters.”
The rights group also reported that early Monday morning the military used drones to fire-bomb medical field tents. One day earlier Israel denied a team of doctors from the West Bank entry to Gaza.
Two-thirds of Gaza’s population of two million Palestinians 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.
The news split screen from Palestine today courtesy of Al Jazeera
Today is unfolding as a horrifying and tragic day in Palestine. The Israeli military has opened fire on Gaza protesters as the U.S. and Israeli governments prepare to mark the move of the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem. Today has been the deadliest day in Gaza since the end of Operation Protective Edge in 2014.
According to the Gaza Ministry of Health (as of 16:30 GMT):
52 killed, including 5 minors and 1 paramedic
2,410 injured – including 200 minors, 11 journalists
28 in critical condition and 116 in serious condition
1,204 shot by Israeli soldiers using live Israeli ammunition.
Since the beginning of the Great March of Return on March 30, 101 Palestinians have been killed, over 3,000 protesters have been shot with live ammunition, and almost 13,000 injured.
We will be updating this post with updates throughout the day and have embedded our Twitter feed below that will most likely include the most up-to-date news.
Live video of the U.S. Embassy dedication ceremony in Jerusalem
Updated: 18:15 GMT
MSNBC’s Ayman Mohyeldin noticed the White House omitted a paragraph from their official transcript of Jared Kushner’s speech today where he condemned protesters in Gaza. The section the White House did not include is in bold below:
“President Trump was very clear that his decision and today’s celebration do not reflect a departure from our strong commitment to lasting peace. A peace that overcomes the conflicts of the past in order to give our children a brighter and more boundless future.
As we have seen from the protest of the last month and even today those provoking violence are part of the problem and not part of the solution. The United States is prepared to support a peace agreement in every way that we can. We believe that it is possible for both sides to gain more than they give so that all people can live in peace safe from danger, free from fear and able to pursue their dreams.
The United States recognizing the sensitivity surrounding Jerusalem, a city that means so much to so many. Jerusalem is a city unique in the history of civilization. No other place on earth can claim significance to three major religions.
Each day Jews pray at the Western Hall. Muslims bow in prayer at Al Asqa mosque, and Christians worship at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. That is why President Trump has called many times, including right now, on all parties to maintain the status quo at Jerusalem’s Holy sites.”
Updated 17:55 GMT
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gave a speech this afternoon with strong religious overtones commemorating the opening of the U.S. embassy in Jerusalem.
“In Jerusalem, King David established our capital three thousand years ago,” Netanyahu said before citing biblical landmark events that took place in the ancient city. He added that relocating the embassy is a foundation for reaching a peace deal with the Palestinians, despite communication between Palestinian negotiators and the Trump administration abruptly halting last December when the moving the embassy was first announced,
“I want to thank Jared, Jason and David for your tireless efforts to advance peace, and for your tireless efforts to advance the truth. The truth and peace are interconnected. A peace that is built on lies will crash on the rocks of Middle Eastern reality. You can only build peace on truth, and the truth is that Jerusalem has been and will always be the capital of the Jewish people, the capital of the Jewish state.”
Netanyahu concluded his remarks by reciting the shehecheyanu, a Jewish prayer said when marking new or exceptional events.
Updated 17:40 GMT
President Donald Trump delivered a video message this afternoon celebrating the relocation of the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem, “the true capital of Israel.” Trump said the embassy opening today comes “many, many years ahead of schedule,” noting, “The United States remains fully committed to facilitating a lasting peace agreement and we continue to support the status quo at Jerusalem’s holy sites including at the Temple Mount also known as Haram al-Sharif.”
Updated 16:55 GMT
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas spoke to reporters in Ramallah today, announcing three days of mourning across the occupied Palestinian territory where schools will close and shops will shutter. In his speech, he described the U.S. embassy in Jerusalem as a “settlement” and said he would soon begin implementing decisions passed by the Palestinian legislature in a meeting earlier this month.
This morning in Washington DC, the Palestinian Ambassador Husam Zomlot released a statement calling the U.S.’s decision to relocate the embassy to Jerusalem an endorsement of “full-fledged apartheid,”
“Today will go down in history as the day the U.S. encouraged Israel to cross the line towards what numerous U.S. and international leaders have been warning from: A full-fledged apartheid. The reality has evolved into a system of privileging one group and continuing to deny the human and national rights, all granted by international law, of over 12 million Palestinians.”
Updated 16:28 GMT
This is a stunning statement from Gilad Erdan, the Israeli Minister of Public Security and Strategic Affairs.
The Jewish Insider reports Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump received a blessing last night from the Sephardic Chief Rabbi Yitzchok Yosef who called black people “monkeys” and used racial slurs when referring to Ethiopian Jews.
This morning Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu with a Congressional delegation led by Joe Wilson (R-SC) and a Senatorial delegation led by Lindsey Graham (R-SC). Florida Gov. Rick Scott was also in attendance.
Updated 14:30 GMT
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu welcomed the delegation from the White House last night in Jerusalem. President Donald Trump is not attending the embassy opening. The team sent by the administration is headed by his daughter Ivanka Trump, son-in-law Jared Kushner, Secretary of the Treasury Steve Mnuchin, Deputy Secretary John Sullivan, special envoy Jason Greenblatt and the U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman.
Netanyahu dedicated about a third of his speech to welcome the White House officials by applauding President Trump for pulling out the Iran agreement:
“And to achieve peace, we have to do one other thing: We must confront the enemies of peace, and I thank President Trump for his decision to confront Iran rather than to appease it. Pulling out of the nuclear deal means that the world’s greater sponsor of terrorism, greatest sponsor of terrorism, is no longer on a glide-path to attaining an arsenal of nuclear weapons. This is good for Israel, this is good for the region, it’s good for the world.
Now, I have something to say to part of the world: With all due respect to those sitting in European capitals, we here in the capitals of the Middle East—in Jerusalem, in Riyadh and elsewhere—we’ve seen the disastrous consequences of the Iran deal. And so when President Trump decides to pull out of this deal, to walk away from it, we know that when he walks away from a bad deal, he’s doing a good thing for our region, for the United States and for the world.”
Netanyahu also spoke of the close personal relationship between his family and Jared Kushner’s:
“I’ve known Jared for 105 years, and there’s a special bond between our families, but I think the fact that you and Ivanka are here is a special, personal testament, but also a national and international statement. It is one that touches our hearts, and we are all delighted by your presence at any time, at any day, but especially on this day. Thank you.”
In addition to firing on Gaza protesters, Israel has also started bombing Gaza as well:
It’s the time of year when Israelis and Palestinians mark the anniversary that matters most to each of them: May 15 is the date of the founding of the Jewish state in 1948. It is also the day that commemorates the Nakba, the flight, expulsion and dispossession of the Palestinians. Nothing underlines more starkly the depth of the unresolved conflict between these two peoples: the independence of the one meant disaster or catastrophe for the other.
Comment: In addition to flight, expulsion and dispossession, the Guardian should have added mass murder. The Jewish immigrants not only kicked the Palestinians off their land, they slaughtered entire villages. But that might bring the analogy to the Nazi slaughter of Jews too close to home.
In the heat of the recent controversy in Britain over Zionism and anti-semitism, relatively little attention was paid to the Palestinian side of this ever controversial story. Europe’s Jews were the victims of racism, persecution and extermination on a massive and unprecedented scale during the Nazi era. Palestinians, in their turn, in a different way, were victims too.
Salman Abu Sitta’s autobiography is a vivid and angry reminder of that. It tells the story of just one of some 750,000 Palestinians who became refugees in the war that followed the UN decision to partition the country in 1947. When he was growing up near Beersheba in the final decade of the British mandate, Jews were first a distant then a closer and menacing presence, well-organised foreign immigrants with guns and detailed maps. Their motives and experiences were remote and unfamiliar.
Abu Sitta takes on board much of the “new history” largely written by Israelis who punctured the older myths of the war, emphasising the military superiority of Zionist forces and the weaknesses and rivalries on the Arab side. He also provides fascinating glimpses of the Palestinian fedayeen – “infiltrators” and “terrorists” to the Israelis – who crossed the border after 1948 not only to “defeat the invader” but to visit abandoned homes and fields on which new settlements were being built.
Uprooted to Gaza, the Gulf and far beyond, he trained as an engineer and spent decades tracking down maps to document his lost homeland. In Cairo and Kuwait he met the “indefatigable” Yasser Arafat and others who formed the Palestinian liberation movement, Fatah, and the PLO, some later assassinated by the Israelis. “We all believed in armed resistance as the route to recovering our homes,” he writes. Abu Sitta humanises a story which has been largely told from the Israeli side.
His book is a forceful re-statement of the Palestinian conviction that Zionism is illegitimate, from the Balfour Declaration of 1917 to the present day. Compromise is treachery, as in 1974 when the PLO first began to make “calamitous concessions” that held out the hope of a two-state solution as originally envisaged by the UN – and seemed for a while to be within reach after the first intifada. The Oslo agreement in 1993, offering self-rule but in fact leading to the expansion of settlements in the post-1967 territories, is portrayed as fatal error that was supported by an exhausted Arafat in the name of “realism.”
In 1995 Abu Sitta, armed with a foreign passport, returned to the land of his birth to see his family’s estate occupied by kibbutzim that had been founded by Jews hailing from Russia, Ukraine, Germany and South Africa. But by then the “faceless enemies” he remembered as a 10-year-old child had been transformed into Israelis with their own language, culture, memories and psychology. Palestinians were not part of their world.
Now, nearly 70 years since the Nakba, 70% of Israelis were born and raised in a country whose landscape has been transformed almost beyond recognition, most of its Arab character deliberately erased. Alongside that, Abu Sitta’s calculation that the majority of Palestinian refugees live only a few miles from their places of origin in 1948 – and could thus go home again – looks like a case of so near yet so far.
Even amidst intensifying talk of the death of the two-state solution, the idea that those aged refugees and millions of their descendants will be be able to exercise their “right of return” to what is now Israel looks like a forlorn hope. Abu Sitta’s memoir conveys a still burning sense of outrage at the injustice of the dispossession of the Palestinians and the denial of their rights – a personal and collective Nakba without end. But it offers scant hope for a better future for two peoples suffering – albeit unequally – under the burden of their intertwined history.
A video clip in which an Israeli sniper filmed himself shooting an unarmed Palestinian across the Gaza fence and then celebrating drew international outrage last night. The two Palestinian targets in the video appear simply to be walking around near the fence.
An IDF soldier filmed himself shooting at unarmed Palestinian protesters on Gaza border this last Friday and then celebrating with his friends saying “Take that sons of bitches.” The IDF has responded that it will investigate
The New York Times has also covered it, honestly, saying the video shows “Israeli troops shooting a Palestinian man across the border fence at a time when he posed no obvious threat — and then rejoicing.”
Yesterday the Israeli army suggested that the video was taken months ago, but as the Times observed, the timing is not important. It quotes B’tselem, the human rights organization:
“Incidents such as the one in the video published today occurred hundreds of times over the past few weeks in the Gaza Strip, causing death and injuries — with the full support of policymakers and top military officials,” Btselem, an Israeli human rights organization, said in a statement. “Btselem is deeply sorrowed by the manifestly illegal commands ordering soldiers to shoot at people who pose no threat.”
The Times also quoted Breaking the Silence, the Israeli soldiers group, saying this isn’t just a few weeks old, it’s 51 years old, a reference to the occupation.
The essentials of the talk in the clip:
There appears to be a discussion with a commander in the background about which Palestinian the sniper should get. All of the figures seem to be standing rather motionless. The commander seems to be saying “take the pink one”, and a sniper answers “not the pink, the blue”. Immediately after a shot is fired (0:39).
The sniper shouts “wow, what a clip, YES!!!!”.
His comrade is in awe – “wow, wow”.
The sniper continues: “Son of a whore!”
Comrades: “did you film it?”
Sniper: “Look, now they’re coming to evacuate him – of course I filmed it!”
Comrade: “Wow, someone’s head was hit!”
Sniper: “What a clip, it’s a dream!” Another comrade: “I didn’t see it, bro!”
Comrade: “Did you see how he flew in the air with his leg like that!”
Sniper: “Take that, you sons of whores!”
Late yesterday in response to the clip, the IDF said: “Concerning the clip – apparently this concerns a case that occurred a few months ago. The case will be investigated and checked thoroughly” (cited by Channel 10 military correspondent Or Heller).
Think about it – the army promised to ‘investigate’. What will it investigate? This practice is completely in line with what B’tselem has been warning about – permission to open fire on anyone within 300 meters of fence. What could the army possibly charge the soldiers with? Celebrating the very acts for which the Defense Minister wants to reward with medals?
Here is Breaking the Silence’s statement on the shooting:
Over the past two weeks, Israeli snipers were ordered to “shoot to kill” targeted unarmed demonstrators in Gaza, killing dozens and injuring hundreds. A video released last night depicts a soldier targeting and shooting an unarmed demonstrator who posed no direct threat. Firing live ammunition at unarmed demonstrators marks the transgression of yet another red line.
Whether this video was filmed a month or a week ago, as those who served in the occupied territories, we know – over 50 years of occupation have resulted in moral corruption to the degree to which unarmed innocent demonstrators are now being killed.
What we are witnessing on the border with Gaza is no different than what we did within Gaza as Israeli soldiers. This complete disregard for the lives of the innocent is indicative of the fact that it is impossible to control millions of people against their will without morally degenerating. Responsibility for this lies first and foremost in the hands of our government, which continues to send the IDF to perpetuate the regime of occupation.
About Jonathan Ofir
Israeli musician, conductor and blogger / writer based in Denmark.
Etaf Abdel-Aal holding the keys. (Photo: Ahmad Kabariti)
Etaf Abdel-Aal and her five grandchildren could not find a better place to sit for lunch than under a fruitless olive tree to have some Somaqeyya, a traditional dish in Gaza. They just 500 meters away from the fence dividing Israel and the Gaza Strip where thousands of angry youths were protesting during the second bloody Friday of the Great March of Return.
By late evening, the Gaza Health Ministry reported at least ten had been killed and more than 1070 injured by Israeli fire, a week after 18 Palestinians were killed at a similar rally.
Despite thick, acrid black smoke emitted from dozens of burning tires and cross by winds to the other side of the fence, Etaf, 58, decided to move the lunch party to Malaka’s border area. It is the closest point to her family’s original village, al-Muharraqa, 5 kilometers east on the other side of the fence.
“My father says that we had a big farm called the ‘Well’, which was full of olive and fig trees before the Nakba, so being here with my grandchildren gives me a sense of nostalgia. My heartbeat has been accelerated since I sat here at 8:00 a.m.” Etaf, a grandmother of 23 grandchildren, told Mondoweiss while holding two rusty keys of the farm’s gate and her father’s house in al-Muharraqa.
“Grandma promised she would tell us the story about ‘The Beautiful Salma and the Monster’ who lived in al-Muharraqa, after lunch.” Mohammed, 4, told me. He and his sister Rital, 6, were there with cousins from three uncles who were killed in an Israeli bomb attack on a Gaza police station in 2009.
Meanwhile, the whistling of tear gas bombs was heard almost every moment during the 10-hour-long protest. On the other side of the fence, the soldiers perched on the sandy hills along with the drones kept firing dozens of such bombs, while young men rushed to bury them, chanting: “The Palestinians will go to paradise, and the Israelis will go to hell!”
Young Palestinians had been collecting thousands of old tires for a week in the lead up to the peaceful protest which focused on five areas along the eastern border of Gaza. Today they were lucky when the hot winds moved the burning fumes towards the soldiers in an attempt to blur the soldiers’ vision, even though as the Jerusalem Post reported, soldiers brought in a huge fan to disperse the smoke.
If there was a moment of calm it was usually broken by angry cheers and yelling and waving to an ambulance crew to rescue the wounded. There was joyful chanting whenever the overloaded tire cart arrived to the area.
Those tire were gathered in a large hole to burn them batch by batch.
Not far from the two-meter-deep collection of tires, Sherin Nasrallah, 30, was leaning on a tire as her male colleagues were trying to prevent her from getting closer to the soldiers. She angrily screamed back at them: “It is not your damned business! Let me go!”
Sherin, a Fatah activist,wanted to do more than she did last Friday, when she and her friends approached the fence and planted a Palestinian flag.
“At that moment, soldiers fired a tear gas bomb at us, and I spent the whole night in the hospital due to suffocation. So, today, I would burn this tire to burn those Israelis as they burned upon our hearts for 70 years. Today I want to be a martyr.”
The young woman, says that she came here under her own steam. “I don’t suffer any social problems. Yesterday I dreamed that I was sleeping in a white coffin amid white roses. This homeland deserves more than our bodies, and I must return to Beersheba, even spiritually,” She said while was knocking on her tire and trying to ignore her colleagues.
The scene east of Khan Yunis, 35 kilometers from Gaza City, was not so different. Smoke and heat were not obstacles to the angry mass of protesters who sometimes poured water on their heads in preparation for a new round of burning tires.
The demonstration was the second of six planned protests organized by a wide group of civil society organizations and political parties. The rallies are scheduled to continue in a massive effort to demand the Palestinian right of return until May 15, the eve of the date commemorating Israel’s establishment 70 years ago, which Palestinians call the Nakba, or catastrophe.
The Israeli Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories, Major General Yoav Mordechai, sent a letter to the head of the World Health Organization on Wednesday, urging the body to take a stand against the “ecological disaster” due to the tire smoke.
Mahmoud Kurdiah, 22, commented on Mordechai’s complaint by saying the Palestinians would also file a complaint that Israel had been firing grenades stuffed with vanilla and Nutella for the last decade. “This is mad, the whole world saw the content of their bombs that burned our bodies, they have to play a more convincing game”.
“The Israelis are afraid of our unity. All the Palestinian parties are working together on this peaceful symbol”. Said Mahmoud, who wrapped in a Palestinian Keffiyeh.
Hamas announced on Thursday it would pay $3,000 to the family of anyone killed in the ongoing Gaza border riots, $500 to Palestinians critically wounded and $200 to those who sustain more minor injuries.
In a statement, the group said it would support the “family of each martyr” with $3,000, while those seriously wounded would receive $500.
The payments were being provided “in light of the difficult economic conditions experienced by our people in the Gaza Strip as a result of the continued Israeli siege.”
In the afternoon, the 26-year-old Mohammed Abu Eida was just arrived at the back of the demonstrations in Khan Younis, holding a pillow to place his right foot which he injured by an explosive bullet during clashes here three months ago.
“I do not care about pain.” Mohammed said. “I sit here to tell them that I will go back to Jaffa with my family. I do not care about the gas bombs and the live fire. These weeks of anger will not calm down even for 100 years.” Mohammed said.
“My grandfather told me that we should return to our land, and we have a map and old documents proving that,” he said. Mohammed’s parents were killed in a helicopter bombardment of their home 10 years ago in the Sabra neighborhood east of the city.
About Ahmad Kabariti
Ahmad Kabariti is a freelance journalist based in Gaza.