If the demonstrations continue, and Israel responds the way it did today, there is a significant risk that the death count will rise, and an already complicated situation will get worse.
Israeli troops opened fire Friday at Palestinians near the Gaza Strip’s border with the Jewish state, killing at least 15 people and wounding many more. The numbers came from the Palestinian health ministry, which put the number of those injured at more than 1,000.
The Palestinian demonstration at the border, dubbed the Great March of Return, was billed as peaceful and nonviolent. Protesters pitched tents near the border with Israel and demanded that refugees be allowed to return to homes they left behind in 1948 during the creation of the state of Israel. Israel, which estimates that 17,000 Palestinians have gathered near the border at six locations, said its troops were enforcing “a closed military zone.” The Israeli army also said it opened fire toward the “main instigators” of what it called rioters who were “rolling burning tires and hurling stones at the security fence and at” Israeli troops. Israel had warned Gaza residents against protesting, and said Hamas, the militant group that governs Gaza, was “cynically” sending women and children “to the security fence and endangering their lives.”
The date the protest began, March 30, is the anniversary of Land Day, a 1976 event in which Israelis killed six Palestinians who were protesting the confiscation of their lands. The protests are expected to last until May 15, the anniversary of the creation of the state of Israel, which the Palestinians view as a “naqba” or “catastrophe” for their people.
“Jerusalem should be open to all without any discrimination. We should have free access to Jerusalem, free access to our holy places.”
— Rev. Ibrahim Shomali, Chancellor of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem
As the Holy Week during which Christians commemorate the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ draws nearer, Palestinians in general and the Christians in particular continue to experience the suffering of Jesus Christ more than 2,000 years ago, according to Palestinian Christian activists.
Noura Carmi, member of the Armenian Orthodox Church, said during a tour of Jerusalem’s Old City organized by the Palestine Liberation Organization’s (PLO) Negotiations Affairs Department on the occasion of Easter celebrations, and specifically through Via Dolorosa, which marks the 14 stations that Christian tradition identifies as the path which Jesus Christ took before his crucifixion, that Palestinians today were still living the suffering of the Christ, who walked that road more than 2,000 years ago, bloodied from wearing a crown of thorns on his head and carrying a heavy cross on his shoulder.
She pointed to buildings taken over by fanatic Jewish settler organizations, many of them were owned by Arab Christian residents of East Jerusalem, as part of a broad Israeli scheme to turn the Old City into a purely Jewish city.