By Jahnvi Upreti
Recent Palestinian protests along the Israel-Gaza Strip border have turned deadly, with violent conflict between protesters and Israelis resulting in at least 28 Palestinian deaths and thousands more wounded, according to Al Jazeera.
On March 30, tens of thousands of Palestinians set up tents and camps on the Gaza Strip and marched along the border fence separating Gaza and Israel in what was called The March of Return, according to CNN.
Approximately two million people live in Gaza. A vast majority are either refugees of the 1948 war between Israel and Palestine or family members of refugees, according to The New York Times.
The March of Return was intended to be a peaceful, six week long sit-in culminating in a mass march to Israel. The March protests Israel’s occupation of Palestine and represents the Palestinians’ frustrations with the Israeli government. The Palestinians are also protesting the Israeli blockade of Gaza, which is supported by neighboring Egypt and has severely limited the flow of people and goods in and out of Palestine since its beginning in 2007, according to The New York Times.
Some of the Palestinian protesters rolled burning tires and threw rocks and Molotov cocktails, a type of homemade firebomb. Two armed individuals began firing shots into Israel, though the overwhelming majority of Palestinians did not own or use weaponry. Israeli soldiers retaliated with gunfire and tear gas, according to The New York Times.
Prior to the protests, Israel took measures to heighten security, including the deployment of snipers to the Gaza Strip, according to The New York Times. The Israeli Defense Force defended its use of force, blaming Hamas — the Islamic militant group that controls the Gaza Strip — for “all events and incidents taking place in (the March 30) protests.”
Mahmoud Abbas, the president of Palestine, publicly stated that he holds Israel responsible for the deaths in the protest and marked March 31 as a national day of mourning, according to CNN.
“Schools, universities, as well as all government institutions across the country will be off on Saturday as per President Mahmoud Abbas’ decision to declare a national mourning for the souls of the martyrs,” claimed an official government statement, according to Al Jazeera.
This bloody protest marks one of the deadliest reported altercations between the Israelis and the Palestinians within recent years, according to The New York Times. Tensions have been rising in recent months following U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.
“We came out to remember our martyrs and to reclaim ownership of our land,” said Yara Mahamid, a student from Gaza, according to Al Jazeera. “We will resist until our last breath. We shouldn’t negotiate anymore. We shouldn’t give up our rights.”