Palestinians in Gaza held their sixth Friday protest as part of the Great March of Return, which began on March 30 with the commemoration of Palestinian Land Day. On Friday demonstrators highlighted the plight of Palestinian workers and the unemployed in a demonstration labeled "Friday of Workers."
As in all previous weeks, Israeli occupation forces fired tear gas, rubber-coated bullets and live ammunition at unarmed protesters injuring hundreds.
According to the Ministry of Health, Israeli forces injured at least 350 protesters Friday, including 21 minors and three journalists. Three of the injured persons are reported to be in serious condition.
The use of live ammunition by Israel’s army has been condemned by the international community and human rights activists. However, in response to the challenge to its open-fire policy, Israeli officials have insisted that their response comply fully with their army’s rules of engagement and international law arguing human rights law is not applicable in a “state of war.”
Human rights groups have consistently rejected this argument.
As the world celebrated International Workers’ Day on May first, reports emerged that at least 400,000 Palestinians are currently facing unemployment, and 150,000 work under precarious conditions in Israel and Jewish-only settlements within the West Bank.
The situation in Gaza, which has endured an over-a-decade-long blockade is even worse. The Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics estimates that almost 50 percent of the population in Gaza is unemployed and about 80 percent is dependent on foreign aid.
Gazan workers are affected by the blockade that prevents construction materials from entering Gaza to reconstruct the Strip, which has been bombed several times by Israeli warplanes. The blockade also affects Gazan fisherman who risks being shot if they attempt to fish beyond the six nautical miles Israel allows them to use. Furthermore, the establishment of no-go zone near the border fence has effectively stolen miles of arable and productive land from Gazan farmers.
According to the Gaza Ministry of Health, the number of Palestinians killed by Israeli forces during demonstrations in Gaza reached 45 on Thursday. No Israeli civilian or military forces have been killed or injured.
The Great March for Return has rallied tens of thousands of Palestinians in Gaza who have set up tents along the northern and eastern border with Israel in a symbolic act to claim their human right as refugees to return to their homeland, a right Israel has denied them for fear of losing its Jewish majority.
The march will last until May 15, when Palestinians will commemorate the 70th anniversary of the Nakba, or catastrophe. The day marks the date 700,000 Palestinians were expelled or fled from their towns and cities after the creation of the state of Israel on May 14, 1948.