Clashes Between Israeli Forces And Palestinians On Land Day Leave At Least 16 Palestinians Dead

At least 16 Palestinians have been killed in clashes between protesters and the Israeli Defence Force (IDF), along with estimates of 750 to 1,400 people injured, making this the highest casualty rate in a single day in Gaza since the 2014 Israel-Gaza conflict. Thousands of Palestinians marched on 30 March 2018 in a demonstration to honour the 42nd anniversary of Land Day. This is the annual commemoration of the killing of six unarmed Palestinians by Israeli forces during demonstrations against the Israeli government’s decision to expropriate large areas of Palestinian-owned land.

The Great March of Return is a planned six-week protest running up until 15 May that calls for Palestinian refugees and their descendants to be allowed to return to their homes in Israel. Palestinians have demanded the right to return to their ancestral homes for up to five million of their people with direct lineage to Palestinians refugees, yet Israel denies this, based on the fact that the return of Palestinians would outnumber the current Jewish majority. Hamas and other Palestinian militant and extremist groups support The Great March of Return, which aids Israel’s approach of discrediting the movement, as it is associated with terrorism. Yet with no reported Israeli casualties, it becomes difficult for Israel to justify their extreme use of force on unarmed civilians.

The IDF were deployed to where the organized protest on Friday took place, a no-go zone on the border of Gaza, where they fired live ammunition, tear gas and rubber bullets at Palestinian protesters. Video evidence has surfaced showing Palestinians being shot while praying, as well as while running away from the no-go zone next to the Gaza border. Adalah, a Palestinian rights legal centre in Israel, has condemned the IDF’s use of force, deeming it a violation of international law. “Live gunfire on unarmed civilians constitutes a brutal violation of the international legal obligation to distinguish between civilians and combatants,” said a representative from the group in a public statement.

Israel has rejected calls from the UN and EU to investigate the bloodshed that took place on Friday, with the Defence Minister asserting the Israeli forces “did what had to be done.” The UN Secretary General, António Guterres, along with a top EU diplomat, Federica Mogherini, have both called for independent inquiries into the violent clashes that left at least 16 dead.

With violent clashes like this between heavily armed Israeli forces and unarmed Palestinian civilians, it is clear who holds power. The demand to return to one’s homeland should not warrant being shot, and with at least 16 deaths, there does not seem to be a clear distinction between containing a protest turned violent and killing those who choose to oppose one’s beliefs.

The Israeli government and armed forces desperately need to reassess their strategy to this issue and make efforts to consider the Palestinian perspective. Whether or not a two state solution is the answer, a concerted effort should be made to practice diplomacy and peace between both the Israeli and Palestinian sides. These violent acts of force against unarmed civilians trying to return to their homes should never occur and warrant an independent investigation to uncover the truth.