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OpEdNews Op Eds    H3'ed 4/2/18

Massacre in Gaza: Israeli Forces Open Fire on Palestinians, Killing 18, Wounding As Many As 1,700

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At least 18 Palestinians have died in Gaza after Israeli forces opened fire Friday on a protest near the Gaza Strip's eastern border with Israel. As many as 1,700 Palestinians were wounded. The deaths and injuries came as 30,000 Gaza residents gathered near the wall, as part of a planned six-week-long nonviolent protest against the blockade of Gaza and to demand the right of return for Palestinian refugees.

The protests began on Friday, March 30, known as "Land Day," marking the anniversary of the 1976 killing of six Palestinians protesting the Israeli confiscation of Arab land. Video posted online shows unarmed Palestinians being shot in the back while taking part in Friday's protest. Another 49 Palestinians were injured by Israeli forces on Saturday. Israel's actions have been condemned around the world, but Israel is rejecting calls to investigate the killings. At the United Nations, the U.S. blocked a move by the U.N. Security Council to open an investigation.

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JUAN GONZÁLEZ: We begin today's show in Gaza, where 18 Palestinians have died, after Israeli forces opened fire Friday on a protest near the Gaza Strip's eastern border with Israel. As many as 1,700 Palestinians were wounded. The deaths and injuries came as 30,000 Gaza residents gathered near the wall as part of a planned six-week-long nonviolent protest against the blockade of Gaza and to demand the right of return for Palestinian refugees. The protests began on Friday, March 30th, which is known as "Land Day." The annual event marks the anniversary of the March 30th, 1976, killing of six Palestinians protesting the Israeli confiscation of Arab land. Video posted online shows unarmed Palestinians being shot in the back while taking part in Friday's protest. Another 49 Palestinians were injured by Israeli forces on Saturday.

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AMY GOODMAN: Israel's actions have been condemned around the world, but Israel is rejecting calls to investigate the killings. Meanwhile, at the United Nations, the U.S. blocked a move by the U.N. Security Council to open an investigation. Riyad Mansour, the Palestinian ambassador to the United Nations, condemned Israel's actions.

RIYAD MANSOUR: These peaceful demonstrations posed no threat whatsoever to Israel or its heavily armed soldiers. Yet its trigger-happy soldiers used live ammunition, tear gas and rubber bullets to shoot indiscriminately at those nonviolent protesters, who were demonstrating inside the Gaza Strip near their side of the well-fortified barrier that separates them from Israel. How could that be condoned?

AMY GOODMAN: Israel has defended its use of lethal force. Captain Keren Hajioff is the head of public diplomacy in the Israel Defense Forces.

CAPT. KEREN HAJIOFF: What we've seen over the last 24 hours is anything other than a peaceful protest. What we've seen is a violent riot in its clearest form. The Hamas terrorist organization have sent their people here to camouflage their true intentions. And we've seen that on the ground, just behind where I'm standing right now.

AMY GOODMAN: We go first to Gaza City to attorney Raji Sourani, director of the Palestinian Center for Human Rights in Gaza. He received the Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Award in 1991. He was also twice named an Amnesty International prisoner of conscience.

Raji Sourani, take us back to Land Day, to Friday, and talk about what took place.

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RAJI SOURANI: Gazans, after 11 years of criminal, illegal, inhuman siege, which suffocated Gaza socially and economically, and after three wars, where Israel was targeting, in the eye of the storm, the Palestinian civilians and civilian targets. And this time, where Israel didn't allow rebuilding Gaza, and denied us from our basic rights, I mean, to that level we are not able to treat our water or our sewage. Gaza, after 11 years of siege, having 65 percent unpaid or unemployed, having 90 percent under poverty line, and 85 percent depends on UNRWA rations, so they shifted us to be a nation of beggars in a biggest man-made disaster. Two million people are crippled, not because we are lazy. We have one of the highest percents of university graduates, and we have one of the most fantastic skilled workers, and we have no illiteracy. But with that, they didn't allow us to function normally, and they decided to disconnect us from the West Bank and from the outside world, and invested all reasons to make Gaza, really, I mean, ISIS space, where people lose hope, no future and no opportunity for -- at any level or by any chance.

So, people wanted, after all this conspiracy of silence, after all this pain and suffering, to demonstrate for their dignity, for their right of having an end for this criminal, illegal, inhuman siege, which all international human rights organizations, all U.N. bodies and all world civil society denied and denounced and condemned Israel of practicing it. They just wanted to have an outcry. We want to have an end. We want to be free. We want to have, you know, access to the outside world. We want to be normal. This is incredible, what's going on. And people just decided to resort, in Land Day, to a peaceful means, peaceful demonstration.

And they went, in hundreds of thousands -- men, women, young, old. From early morning, everybody marched and went to very specific points designated by the political parties to demonstrate that. And all political parties declared and committed themselves to have it clearly peacefully. I personally was there. I was on the border with the people, from the early morning. I can assure you 100 percent what I have seen, what I witnessed, what I felt, what all our field workers across the Gaza Strip felt and watched and noticed, that this was 100 percent peaceful demonstrations. Nothing -- nothing -- weird had happened. All people were away from the fence, tens of meters, between 50 to 100 meters at least.

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