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Tomorrow’s Gaza Demonstration Faces Threat of Yet Another Israeli Massacre

Tomorrow’s Gaza Demonstration Faces Threat of Yet Another Israeli Massacre

Tomorrow’s Gaza Demonstration Faces Threat of Yet Another Israeli Massacre
April 05
19:44 2018

GAZA — Tens of thousands of residents in the besieged Gaza Strip plan on returning to the Israeli-controlled border Friday in defiance of menacing promises from Tel Aviv to use massive and disproportionate force. The event will occur exactly one week after the Israelis massacred 17 unarmed demonstrators with live ammunition on Palestinian Land Day.

The protest is the latest in a six-week-long set of nonviolent protests meant to commemorate the continuing dispossession of the Palestinian people and the absorption of ancestral Palestinian land by the country now known as Israel.

The series of events will last until the 15th of May, a date making the 70th anniversary of the establishment of the State of Israel – known to Palestinians as Nakba Day, or “The Day of Catastrophe,” when three-quarters of a million Palestinians were brutally displaced by Israeli militia in 1948.

On Wednesday, hundreds of Palestinians gathered at encampments near the security barrier to defy Israeli threats by enjoying camel races and dancing the Palestinian national dance, or dabke, in full view of occupation personnel, as demonstrators of all ages shared sweets and food while singing chants celebrating the resistance of the Palestinian people.

Meanwhile, Israeli attempts to break up the gathering with tear gas canisters and less-lethal weapons were greeted by the resistance of Palestinian youth, men and women, who hurled stones and fired slingshots at the well-armed troops in response.

 

Optimism and threats

Protesters plan to peacefully march to the 28-mile-long Israeli security barrier, and some have declared their intention to prevent Israeli snipers from repeating last week’s tragedy by obstructing the troops’ view with smoke from burning tires and light from reflective mirrors.

Organizers have expressed hope that another massacre won’t occur, noting that plans are in place to tightly organize Friday’s events; but Israeli officials have issued an ominous warning to discourage the protesters from congregating near the security frontier enclosing the territory.

Hard-line Israeli war minister Avigdor Lieberman has promised that more blood will be shed in case Palestinians fail to comply with the demands of occupation military personnel.

“If there are provocations, there will be a reaction of the harshest kind like last week,” the right-wing nationalist politician told Israeli public radio. “We do not intend to change the rules of engagement.”

Noting that troops would be ordered to fire on those who come within 100 meters of the fence, the Moldovan-born Minister of Defense added that “anyone who attempts to approach the fence is risking their life.”

Watch | Israeli army massacres 17 Palestinians in Gaza



 

Crimes against humanity

Around 1,700 Palestinian demonstrators were injured and 16 people were killed by around 100 occupation snipers and other security forces in last Friday’s demonstration. The massacre was the worst since the Israelis launched a full-blown war on the long-suffering coastal strip in 2014.

Two more Palestinians lost their lives in indiscriminate shelling, while another two were killed in the week that followed, including one person who was killed in an airstrike.

Israeli Border Police also deployed small unmanned aerial vehicles that fired tear gas canisters on protesters, the second such recorded usage of the experimental crowd-control technique.

Israeli military officials claim that such wanton use of force – including, in one case, against a fleeing Palestinian running in the opposite direction of the border fence – was necessary to prevent the resistance group Hamas from “embarrass[ing] Israel while risking those civilians.”

Protestors use mirrors and burning tires to thwart Israeli snipers during a protest in the Gaza Strip on border with Israel, east of Khan Younis, April 2, 2018. (AP/Khalil Hamra)

Protesters use mirrors and burning tires to thwart Israeli snipers during a protest in the Gaza Strip on border with Israel, east of Khan Younis, April 2, 2018. (AP/Khalil Hamra)

The bloodshed drew fierce condemnation from rights groups, international organizations, Palestinian authorities, and even officials in Washington and Tel Aviv. The European Union and United Nations head Antonio Guterres have called for an independent investigation into the incident, which Israeli authorities have rejected.

Dr. Husam Zomlot — a top Palestinian ambassador to Washington and respected academic, who was himself born in a Gaza refugee camp — denounced the massacre as a morally repugnant crime against humanity in an official statement by the Palestine Liberation Organization delegation to the United States:

Our legitimate protest against Israeli military occupation, colonization and apartheid is granted in international law and must be protected by the international community …  the 70-year-old practice of Israel’s shoot-to-kill policy and dehumanization of the Palestinian people must end and Israeli criminals must be brought to justice.

… [T]hese atrocities deserve the strongest condemnation from the U.S. government and action to uphold international law.”

 

Israeli rights group calls on troops to defy illegal orders

Israeli human-rights group B’Tselem has launched a campaign titled “Sorry Commander, I Cannot Shoot” in preparation for the march, calling on Israeli troops – most of whom are conscripts – to refuse orders to shoot unarmed demonstrators. The rights group has even placed ads in Israeli papers giving instructions to soldiers who find themselves forced to carry out illegal orders to fire on defenseless, unarmed demonstrators. In a statement, the group said:

Contrary to the impression given by senior military officers and government ministers, the military is not permitted to act as it sees fit, nor can Israel determine on its own what is permissible and what is not when dealing with demonstrators. Like all other countries, Israel’s actions are subject to the provisions of international law and the restrictions they impose on the use of weapons, and specifically the use of live fire. The provisions limit its use to instances involving tangible and immediate mortal danger, and only in the absence of any other alternative. Israel cannot simply decide that it is not bound by these rules.

… Therefore, as long as soldiers in the field continue to receive orders to use live fire against unarmed civilians, they are duty-bound to refuse to comply.”

Following an abortive U.S.- and Israeli-backed coup attempt against the elected Hamas government in 2007, the approximately 2 million Palestinians in Gaza have faced three devastating wars initiated by the Israelis and a stifling blockade by Tel Aviv and Cairo that has claimed at least 1,000 lives.

Some officials in Gulf Arab countries and the U.S. — including John Bolton, the new National Security Advisor to U.S. President Donald Trump — have mulled handing control of the Gaza Strip over to the Egyptian government while remaining West Bank territory controlled by the Palestinian Authority would be annexed by the Israelis and Jordanians, thus dashing hopes for a future state of Palestine.

Top Photo | Palestinian mourners carry the body of 23-year-old Mojahid al-Khodari, who was killed early Thursday morning by an Israeli airstrike, during his funeral in Gaza City, April 5, 2018. A second man died from wounds sustained in a mass protest along the Israeli border. The fatalities bring to 21 the number of people killed in confrontations in the volatile area since last week. (AP/Khalil Hamra)

Elliott Gabriel is a former staff writer for teleSUR English and a MintPress News contributor based in Quito, Ecuador. He has taken extensive part in advocacy and organizing in the pro-labor, migrant justice and police accountability movements of Southern California and the state’s Central Coast.

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Alexander Ionov

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