By Friday evening, March 30, the Palestinian Ministry of Health had confirmed the death of 16 Palestinians and the injury of 1,416 civilians, as a result of Israeli gunfire and crowd dispersal measures during the course of the Great Return March in Gaza. The march, which had been organized as a peaceful protest by activists and grassroots organizations in the city and its environs, was the first day of protests scheduled to take place daily along the Gaza-Israel border until May 15. Fifteen of Friday’s dead were killed during mass demonstrations along the border, while one, a farmer, was killed before dawn on Friday as he was working on his land near the fence. The more than1,400 wounded suffered from various degrees of injury caused by anything from live bullets to severe inhalation of tear gas.
The slain Palestinians were identified as: Naji Abu Hijir, Mohammed Kamal Najjar, Wahid Nasrallah Abu Samour, Amin Mansour Abu Muammar, Mohammed Naeem Abu Amr, Ahmed Ibrahim Ashour Odeh, Jihad Ahmed Fraina, Mahmoud Saadi Rahmi, Abdel Fattah Abdel Nabi, Ibrahim Salah Abu Shaar, Abd al-Qader Marhi al-Hawajri, Sari Walid Abu Odeh, Hamdan Isma’il Abu Amsha, Jihad Zuhair Abu Jamous and Bader al-Sabbagh. The farmer killed around dawn was identified as Omar Samour, 31.
Videos of the march show civilians being shot down by Israeli snipers who were stationed tens of meters away from the protesters, on the other side of a highly fortified fence.
The deaths of 16 Palestinians from gunfire by the Israeli army during the protests along the Gaza border fence weighed heavily upon Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel as they commemorated the 42nd anniversary of Land Day on Friday. Thousands of marchers converged on the Galilean city of Arrabe including MKs from the Joint List, among them all MKs from Hadash, leading members of Hadash and the Communist Party of Israel (CPI), heads of local authorities, and social and religious leaders. The march was organized to commemorate the anniversary of the fatal shootings by Israeli security forces of six Arab-Palestinian citizens who participated in a protest against land expropriations in the Galilee on March 30, 1976. Following a decision by the CPI calling for a general strike and marches against the government’s plans to expropriate thousands of dunams in the Galilee between the towns of Sakhnin and Arrabe, thousands of police officers were deployed as were military units. During the demonstrations, six youths were shot to death and about a hundred other protesters were wounded.
This year’s marchers held Palestinian flags and pictures of the six, who became martyrs and symbols for their defense of Arab land. Arrabe mayor Ali Asaleh told the gathering in his city Friday: “This is the march of Land Day. We wanted that day [in 1976] to be peaceful and pure but they turned it into a sea of blood. Today they are repeating the same thing in Gaza, besieging and killing… Israeli authorities will do whatever is needed to continue plundering our land,” Asaleh charged. He also took issue with US President Donald Trump’s formulation of a “peace initiative” that is seen by Palestinians as a bid to impose surrender terms on them. “The ‘deal of the century’ is an attempt to liquidate the Palestinian cause and erase the right of return, our holy right and our rights in Jerusalem,” he said.
The Chairman of the Joint List, MK Ayman Odeh (Hadash), sharply criticized the Israel’s response to Friday’s Gaza protests and denounced the army’s use of live ammunition against unarmed protesters. “On the Jewish festival of freedom, of all days, the residents of the world’s largest prison are asking to live. Men, women, and children, residents of Gaza, are marching to demand their freedom, facing off against indifference and cruelty. From Israel’s perspective, there is no legitimate form of Palestinian protest. Even such a model of non-violent popular struggle is met with armed soldiers who don’t hesitate to fire at unarmed demonstrators. Israel must immediately stop the shooting and allow the residents of Gaza to carry out their just and legitimate protest.”