As thousands of Palestinians, including entire families, get ready to put up five tent-cities along the Gaza border as part of a six-week protest demanding the recognition of Palestinian refugees' right to return, the Israeli occupation army has deployed over 100 sharpshooters to the border.
The announcement was made by Lieutenant General Gadi Eizenkot in an interview Wednesday with a local daily. “We have deployed more than 100 sharpshooters who were called up from all of the military’s units, primarily from the special forces… If lives are in jeopardy, there is permission to open fire,” Eizenkot said.
The protest is scheduled to begin Friday, which comemorates what Palestinians call Land Day, which marks the murder of six unarmed Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel during demonstrations on March 30, 1976 in response to the Israeli government’s announcement it was confiscating thousand of kilometers of land for “security” reasons and Jewish settlement building.
It will last until May 15, when Palestinians commemorate 70 years since the Nakba or catastrophe, when over 700,000 Palestinians had to flee their homes, towns and cities after the creation of the state of Israel on May 14, 1948.
The week-long Jewish holiday of Passover, when Israel heightens security, also begins on Friday.
Nickolay Mladenov, the United Nations special coordinator for the Middle East peace process, called on all sides “to exercise restraint and take the necessary steps to avoid a violent escalation”.
In January Ibrahim Abu-Thuraya, an unarmed double amputee from Gaza, was shot and killed by an Israeli sharpshooter while protesting the declaration of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. The United Nations and human right groups have repeatedly condemned Israel for excessive use of lethal force against Palestinian protesters.
Citing security concerns, Israeli enforces a “no go” zone for Palestinians on land in Gaza adjacent to Israel’s border fence. Palestinians in Gaza risk being shot when they access this zone, even if they are not engaging in hostile behavior.
The right to return for the five million Palestinian refugees who live in the occupied territory and around the world is a central demand of the Palestinian people, and of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement.Israel has ruled this out, considering it a demographic threat that could undermine the Jewish character of the Israeli state.