Julie Webb-Pullman reports

Posts tagged “Weekly Protests

Dear fellow human

My name is Olfat al-Kurd. I live in Shuja’iya in Gaza. I am 37 years old and have four children. In July 2017, I joined the B’Tselem team as one of three field researchers in Gaza. In the past few weeks, since the protests along the fence with Israel began, we have been working around the clock to document, collect eyewitness accounts and testimonies of injured people, and gather information about the demonstrations and casualties.

I attend the weekly protests not only in my professional capacity but also as a Gazan. Some of my photos, posted on B’Tselem’s photo blog, show how most of the protesters gather in tents pitched far from the fence. These families enjoy entertainment stages, live music, food stalls and other family activities. We go there to convey a political message, to demonstrate, but non-violently – we don’t go there with weapons. The soldiers shoot at us nonetheless, and people are injured from live fire and tear gas.

This week, a concerned Israeli colleague asked me why I keep attending the protests, even though it’s dangerous. I replied that I am, of course, afraid, sometimes so much that I fear I won’t come back.

But the truth is that nowhere in Gaza is safe – whether near the border or in our own homes. Israeli planes can bomb any house, anywhere, at any moment. We all live in constant dread of something terrible happening. Everyone in Gaza lost a relative in the last wars. I lost my brother in the 2009 ‘war’.

The festival activities at the protests are a rare opportunity for us to breathe, meet people, and feel that we belong to something larger than ourselves. The open areas near the fence are the vastest in Gaza, but no one has dared go there since the last war. We can’t go to the beach any longer because sewage infrastructure has collapsed as a result of the blockade, and raw sewage flows into the sea. Many Gazans live in abject poverty and cannot afford to sit in a café or a restaurant, so they come to the protests with a coffee thermos and food.

Israel has been holding Gaza under blockade for more than ten years. Some of the young people participating in the protests and being wounded or even killed by soldiers, do not know what it’s like to have running water and a steady supply of electricity. They have never left Gaza and grew up in a prison.

You can’t visit us, Israel doesn’t allow anyone to see what’s going on here. There is no real life in Gaza. The whole place is clinically dead.

The younger generations are crushed by the hopelessness and death everywhere. The protests have given us all a spark of hope. They are our attempt to cry out to the world that it must wake up, that there are people here fighting for their most basic rights, which they are entitled to fulfill. We deserve to live, too.

Sincerely,

Olfat al-Kurd
Gaza Field Researcher
B’Tselem


Israel sends the kiss of death on Valentine’s Day

While the rest of the world sends expressions of love on Valentine’s Day, Israel sends the kiss of death to Gaza. A man now lies clinging to life in Kamal Adwan hospital after being shot in the stomach by Israeli soldiers east of Jabaliya on Friday, while another five also receive treatment for bullet wounds.

A seventh is nursing injuries from tear-gas canisters.

valentine day

An Israeli army spokeswoman confirmed to Ma’an News that Israeli soldiers fired live bullets towards the legs of the young men. Tear-gas and ‘anti-riot’ methods were also used, she said.

Palestinian youth have been gathering on Palestinian land east of Jabaliya in northern Gaza every Friday for the last two months, to assert their rightful possession of it. Resentful of the crippling Israeli blockade that restricts their movement outside of the Gaza Strip, the young men manifest their legal right to assemble on their own land in their own territory, and to move freely within it.

Israeli soldiers on the border refuse to recognise this right, and frequently open fire on them, causing injury and death. On Thursday Ibrahim Suleiman Mansour, 26, was shot dead by Israeli occupation forces while he was collecting gravel to sell, his only means of livelihood.

Ibrahim Suleiman Mansour's body at al-Shifa Hospital (ALRAY Photo)

Ibrahim Suleiman Mansour’s body at al-Shifa Hospital (ALRAY Photo)

In July 2013 the United Nations Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) estimated that prior to the November 2012 cease-fire agreement, 35% of Gaza’s agricultural land was within the Israeli-declared “security buffer zone,” resulting in losses to Palestinian farmers in Gaza of USD 50.2 million, per year.

The “security buffer zone” extends between 500 meters and 1500 meters into the Gaza Strip, effectively turning Palestinian farms into rifle-ranges for Israeli live-target practice.

For some unfathomable reason, there has been no international condemnation of the Israeli practice of enforcing a buffer zone on the OTHER side of its border.

The question that must be asked is, if Israel feels the need for a “security buffer zone” of 500 – 1500 meters, why don’t they withdraw that distance on their OWN side of the border? Or better still, to that distance behind the internationally-recognised borders of 1967?

Until and unless they do, it will not be the red of the roses of love that brightens the Gazan landscape every February 14, but the red of Palestinian blood as the life of its young is lost to Israeli land-grabs and guns.