The United Nations Security Council has been urged by the Palestinian ambassador to the UN to open an independent investigation into Israel’s crimes. These include the recent killing of four Palestinians, amounting to 39 total deaths since mass demonstrations began, dubbed the Great March of Return. Palestinians are calling for the return of their refugees to their land.
The demonstrations began in late March in the besieged Gaza strip, with more than 10,000 people attending. Palestine’s Ambassador to the UN Riyad Mansour told reporters in New York, “It seems that the Israeli occupying forces are not restraining themselves, they’re not listening to anyone and they are continuing with this massacre.” So far at least 729 people have been wounded by Israeli gunfire, needed treatment for tear gas inhalation or suffered from other injuries, according to the Palestinian Ministry of Health. Israel is continuing to use lethal force and has an open-fire policy despite international condemnation. Last week Israel proposed opening an investigation into the killing of a child protester. However, Mansour rejected this because the investigation would not be credible, calling instead for an independent, unbiased probe. No comments have been issued by the UN Security Council on the events, since the United States – Israel’s main ally – has always blocked any statements critical of Israel’s actions towards the Palestinians.
The Great March of Return carries the very important message of the right for Palestinian refugees to return to their land. Throughout the 1948 war, these refugees were driven out of their homes in the territories taken over by Israel. Arabs know the year 1948 as the Nakba, or catastrophe, due to the fact that thousands were forced from their homes. On the other hand, for Israelis the year 1948 marks the creation of their own state. Palestinians demand the right to return to their ancestral homes as the descendants of the refugees. Regardless, Israel argues that the Jewish majority will be outnumbered if the Palestinians return.
The march will continue until May 15, when the protesters hope to reach the border fence of Israel. This is what Israel fears, as they don’t want anyone close to the line. The demonstrations have been attended by thousands, showing the frustrations of the Gaza civilians. The border blockade has shattered their economy and intensified poverty. There is a water and electricity crisis as well as an increased unemployment rate.
Earlier this month, a persecutor for the International Criminal Court called for an end to the violence, saying that by her office, the issue of the Palestinian territories is subject to preliminary examination. UN Secretary-General António Guterres and several private human rights investigators have previously requested an independent and transparent investigation. In a statement, the human rights investigators expressed outrage over the firing of live ammunition which may amount to unlawful killings and injuries. They also said an independent probe is the only way to “truly address what has happened in Gaza and to prevent its recurrence.”