by +972 Magazine staff
Tens of thousands of Palestinians protested at the Gaza-Israel border fence on Friday, marking the beginning of the “Great Return March,” a 45-day-long series of protests and events planned to culminate on May 15 — Nakba Day. The organizers of the Gaza return march had said explicitly that the protest was meant to be nonviolent yet Israeli forces fired live bullets and tear gas at the demonstrators.
Israeli troops killed at least 12 Palestinians during Friday’s protests, which took place at several points along the besieged coastal strip’s border. The Palestinian Ministry of Health reported that more than 1,100 people were wounded from gunfire and teargas inhalation. The Israeli army reported zero injuries among its troops.
Even before the march began Israeli security forces launched a public campaign painting the ‘Great Return March’ as a violent, Hamas-sponsored event. The Israeli army’s chief of staff announced the deployment of 100 snipers and several infantry brigades to the area of the Gaza border fence. Israeli generals warned ahead of time that there will be Palestinian casualties.
The Israeli army personally threatened bus company owners and their families against transporting protesters to the border. “From my point of view,” COGAT Gen. Yoav Mordechai told Al-Hura TV, “if bus companies you own take some of the protesters and bring them to the border, you and your families will be held personally responsible.”
Friday’s march in Gaza also coincided with the anniversary of Land Day, which itself commemorates how in 1976 Israeli security forces responded to a general strike and mass protest of Palestinian citizens of Israel by killing six and wounding some 100 others.
On Land Day and Nakba Day in 2011, thousands of Palestinians from Lebanon, Syria, the West Bank and Gaza, and inside Israel marched on the country’s borders. On the Lebanese, Syrian, and Gaza borders, the army responded with gunfire, killing dozens and wounding hundreds.
Republished, with permission, from +972 Magazine.