Palestinians in the Gaza Strip will hold at least four more demonstrations through May 15 in their March of Return – three on the coming Fridays and one on Nakba Day. While the number of demonstrators has decreased since the first march, the number of people killed, and especially the number wounded, by Israeli fire remains very high.
In other words, the government and the army are sticking to the dangerous policy of shooting live bullets at unarmed demonstrators. They are deliberately refraining from using nonlethal methods, which don’t cause permanent disabilities, in order to prevent a few of the demonstrators from crossing the border into Israel.
Nevertheless, a stable hard core of Gazans is sticking with the idea of mass protests. Therefore, there’s reason to fear that the coming demonstrations will result in many more casualties.
Last Friday, soldiers killed four demonstrators, including a 15-year-old boy, and wounded 156 people with live bullets. According to the Palestinian Health Ministry, the number of people wounded by gunfire since March 30 has climbed to 1,700, of whom most were hit in the lower body.
International organizations like Medecins Sans Frontieres, the World Health Organization and Medical Aid for Palestinians back the Palestinian government’s findings on the large number of people wounded and the exceptional severity of their wounds (Haaretz, April 22). According to MSF, the bullets Israeli soldiers are shooting cause “an extreme level of destruction to bones and soft tissue, and large exit wounds that can be the size of a fist.” Most of the wounded will suffer from severe disabilities for the rest of their lives, and many will have to undergo a series of further operations and treatments.
Gaza’s health system – which, because of the Israeli blockade and the Fatah-Hamas infighting, suffers from a chronic shortage of medications, advanced medical equipment and a safe, regular supply of power – is collapsing under the weight. Hundreds of operations on ordinary patients have been postponed to free up surgeons, equipment and space for the many gunshot casualties.
The new patients and the newly disabled, who will join thousands of previous casualties of Israeli fire, will continue to be a physical and emotional burden on Gazan society. But this won’t destroy their longing for independence; it will simply intensify their grievances against Israel.
Anyone who thinks the burden imposed by these mass casualties has nothing to do with Israel is mistaken. In part, this is because the day will come when Diaspora Jewish communities and democratic countries run out of patience with Israel’s policy.
But the more important point is this: Under the nationalist steamroller of this extreme right-wing government, which doesn’t see the Palestinians as equal human beings, the Israel Defense Forces are liable to lose their humanity, with unnecessary killings and wholesale casualties becoming a matter of routine. Thus it’s past time to stop this destructive trend and strive to minimize the use of live fire as well as the loss of both life and quality of life.
The above article is Haaretz’s lead editorial, as published in the Hebrew and English newspapers in Israel.
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