Palestinians have protested for the third day as part of the annual “March of Return” to commemorate Land Day, braving Israeli tanks and snipers deployed along the Gaza fence where 17 protesters were killed a few days ago.
At least 50 people were injured on Sunday as Israeli forces shot at Palestinian protesters in the city of Jabalia and elsewhere in the Gaza Strip. Several dozen protesters suffered suffocation due to inhaling teargas.
Clashes have been ongoing since Friday when tens of thousands of Palestinians began a six-week march near the fence to demand what they say is their right to return to the homes of their families in what is now called Israel.
Israel has responded ferociously to the rally and as of Sunday, at least 17 Palestinians have been shot dead and more than 1,450 others injured.
Palestinians have called the rally a “peaceful demonstration” in order to raise international awareness of the plight the displaced Palestinians are struggling with and take the chance to express their anger towards the Israeli blockade of the Gaza Strip.
The demonstration has humanitarian and political purposes, Palestinian political expert Akram Atallah told Reuters on Sunday.
“With regard to the humanitarian aspect, life in Gaza is like hell and this mainly due to the blockade. The public has called for putting an end to that situation,” the news agency quoted him as saying.
Israeli authorities have branded the rally as a “riot,” deploying at least 100 snipers and Merkava tanks near the fence in a show of force which has been denounced as “disproportionate” around the world.
They have claimed to be targeting protesters posing a threat to what they call the Israeli border but footage showing Palestinians being shot while praying or running away from the fence has discredited those allegations.
The situation is now feared to deteriorate further as Israel has threatened to expand its “response” in the face of the demonstration which is set to continue until the day when the US embassy in Israel is moved from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem al-Quds.
The magnitude of the demonstration this year highlights the Palestinian anger at US President Donald Trump’s declaration of Jerusalem al-Quds as the so-called capital of Israel and his decision to move the American embassy there.
On Friday, the US blocked a UN Security Council statement that reaffirmed “the right to peaceful protest” and called for an “independent and transparent investigation” into the Israeli violence.
Other than that, the response to the Israeli violence by other Western governments has either been mute or lukewarm.
Among Muslims, most Arab states have condemned Israel, except Saudi Arabia which has refrained from commenting on the carnage.
Iran and Turkey have been the most vociferous in their denunciation of the Israeli regime.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Sunday Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is a “terrorist and occupier.”
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif also hit out at “Zionist tyrants” who “murder peaceful Palestinian protesters whose land they have stolen as they march to escape their cruel and inhuman apartheid bondage.”