‘Total Impunity': Israel Clamps Down on Land Day Protests With ‘Bloodbath'

‘Total Impunity': Israel Clamps Down on Land Day Protests With ‘Bloodbath' ...
sputniknews.com 01/04/2018 Military

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Israeli forces killed an estimated 16 Palestinians in the Gaza Strip Friday as thousands participated in Land Day protests calling for the return of land taken in 1976 to set up Israeli settlements.
'A message to the world that Palestinians didn't forget their land' – Hamas official on Gaza clashes

* * * The 'Great Return' protests are not just another protest by Palestinians against the Israeli occupation, they are a fresh start in the effort to reclaim the long-lost land, Mousa Abu Marzook from the Hamas politburo told RT.
Marzook, a deputy chairman of the Hamas Political Bureau, disputed the official Israeli narrative, according to which those who were killed in the protests were met with deadly force because they sought to "infiltrate" Israeli territory.
"First of all, I want to say that all who were killed did not come close to the border fence and did not attempt to take it by storm. They were killed by snipers from a long distance when they were inside the Gaza Strip," Marzook said, adding that the international community must condemn the way the Israeli Defense Force (IDF) handled the mass unrest.
On Friday, the UN Secretary-General called for "an independent and transparent investigation" into the incidents, which saw at least 17 people killed during the clashes. Several Muslim nations, including Turkey, Egypt and Jordan, denounced what they consider to be the "disproportionate force" used by Israel against the largely unarmed protesters. Moscow has also joined in on the criticism, describing the suppression of the protests as an "indiscriminate use of force against civilians."
In addition to those killed, over 1,400 people were injured, roughly half of them with live fire and many with tear gas and rubber bullets, according to the initial figures provided by the Gaza Health Ministry. Ashraf Kidra, the Gaza Health Ministry spokesman, later told Sputnik that at least 36 Palestinian nationals suffered bullet wounds after the IDF opened fire.
By staging the six-week-long 'Great Return' protests, calling for the right of the Palestinian refugees to return to their homes that are now in territory occupied by Israel, the Palestinian people will "send a message that they did not forget their villages and towns, the towns of their fathers and grandfathers," Marzook said.
"They want today's events to become a starting point, and not merely some incident that took place on Land Day," he added. Speaking about the wider implications of Friday's unrest, Marzook argued that in addition to the "message to the world that Palestinians did not forget about their land" they should serve as a "reminder to the whole world that there are UN resolutions, that give Palestinians the right to return to their villages and towns."
Marzook, who has been among senior Hamas leadership since the early 1990s, said that he believes that for the Palestinian cause to succeed, Palestinian refugees in neighboring countries, Europe, the US and other parts of the world should be just as vocal in standing up for their nation's ultimate goal.
Dubbed the Great March of Return, the demonstration is expected to last a total of six weeks. More than 1,000 protesters have been injured, according to the Gaza Ministry of Health, some of them hurt by live weapons fire, the Middle East Eye reported.
However, according to the Israeli military, their violent response to the demonstrators took place because "rioting" broke out at various sites along the border.
journalist and filmmaker Dan Cohen explained that Israel's aggressive response to the protests is another example of the state suppressing Palestinians because they're not Jewish.
"I think we have to understand why [Palestinians] are marching… and why Israel is responding with such heavy-handed violence," Cohen told show hosts John Kiriakou and Walter Smolarek. "It's not because these refugees pose any kind of physical threat, but simply because they do not fit the definition of what the state wants for the Israeli citizens — meaning they are not Jewish… and so for that they are gunned down mercilessly."
"They're also being heavily suppressed with tear gas… it's basically a bloodbath that should be rightly understood as a massacre," he added.
Land Day protests occur every year, but this one has taken on an added dimension, Cohen explained.
"This year it's a major organized rally and I think it's kind of in response to the increased Israeli aggression, ongoing siege, life being completely unbearable and there being no future for any Palestinian," he said. "I haven't been back for a year but everytime I go back there's this increasing sense of desperation, where you could see it in people's body language… the best job a young person can hope for is a taxi driver and that's just to make ends meet."
"More than 50 percent of the population is under 18 with absolutely no future and so that's just a perfect recipe for deep frustration," he said. "You have young people going to the border to voice their discontent with being locked in a tiny bombed-out cage."
But the rising death toll isn't likely to push any world leader into pressuring Israel to back off, Cohen told Kiriakou.
"Palestinians are more isolated than ever," the filmmaker said. "Hamas maintains some connection to Qatar and to Iran, but even Qatar is even trying to cozy up to the US through Israel. From the West, from the US and the EU, it's a total green light to continue to colonize Palestinian land… to shoot young people, people of all ages, men, women, children, to shoot them down and kill them."
Cohen later noted, "countries that are designated enemies of the US.. are decried for alleged human rights violations [but when it comes to] Israel… it's complete and total impunity for the… apartheid state."
In the end, the filmmaker says Israel's strategy with Gaza "is to keep it hovering right above the breaking point where life is unbearable but there's not a mass explosion of violence."
UN Deputy Political Affairs Chief Taye-Brook Zerihoun informed the United Nations Security Council Friday that the situation in Gaza "might deteriorate in the coming days" and called on Israel to only use lethal force as a last resort.
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