Twenty two consecutive weeks have passed in which thousands of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip have joined anti-Israel rallies, known as the “Great March of Return,” close to the border with Israel.
Israeli forces have killed at least 171 Palestinians, and more than 17,000 have been wounded in Gaza over the last near to 150 days. One Israeli soldier was killed by a Palestinian sniper during the same period.
On the other hand, Egypt is finalizing details of a long-term truce deal between Israel and Hamas in Gaza, so as to ease tensions on the border of the enclave where some two million Palestinians live. But the majority of those I interviewed at the fence say they will continue participating.
A long-term truce could pave the way for talks on other issues, including the easing of a blockade that has crippled Gaza’s economy and allowing a possible swap of Palestinian prisoners in exchange for the bodies of two Israeli soldiers.
For many in Gaza, the situation has become so dire that they protest despite the risk of facing live fire by Israeli soldiers.
Originally, the protests were to take place until May 15, known as Nakba Day, marking the expulsion of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians during the creation of Israel.
However, with no alternatives, many Palestinians have continued to protest on a weekly basis after Nakba Day.
Mustafa Basoos, 55, retired physical education teacher:
“Despite the fact I am not a refugee and I don’t have even an inch of land in Israel, weekly protest along the border is not an act by those who were displaced from their homes. I think no rights can be lost so long as a Palestinian man demands them. It seems that Palestine liberation must be written by blood, as all the nations did so.”
Sadiya Syam, 62, mother of children slain and wounded in the protest
“Emad, my wounded son has been in the hospital for 14 days, but I insist to protest today. Some people might think that Palestinian mothers lack motherhood, but this is false. We love our sons as we yearn for liberation. Both my sons lost their lives in seeking to immigrate due to the deteriorated living situation caused by the Israeli blockade. How could their 25 and 27 years have been wasted in trying to escape from Gaza when they could not build their country?”
Etaf Wadi, 56, protester
“There will be no truce, nor ceasefire. They are just trying to deceive us to stop protesting. We see how this weekly non-violent protest harms those invincible soldiers and their state. We don’t seek for a fast-breaking truce as we experienced before. We want a normal life without feeling surrounded. Even a lamp works for four hours a day only. So we have to make the solution by our own hands; not from Trump or the Arabs.”
Raghda Jarbou’, 18, high school student
“This is the first participation for me, and I hope it will be the last for all protesters. I believe that the blockade will be broken soon. I think we should live in a free world far away from violence or the language of the bullet. But I have heard that we have thousands of casualties, wounded or killed. It does not matter. That is the price of liberation and the price to return to Jaffa, the homeland of my grandfather.”
Naeem Abu Ghaben, 57, typist
“I will stop protesting once this barbed wire falls down. Then I will call my wife and hurry to return to Hiribya- located 14 kilometers northeast of Gaza. Israel will not give gifts as Santa Claus used to. So there can be no truce that Israel will break immediately. People in Gaza are exhausted a lot from the siege, while Israel thinks that the slavery era is still in existence, on grounds of its alleged security.”
Suha al-Ruzzi, 45, housewife
“Unfortunately, nothing has been changed for the better in five months. It seems we are struggling against the whole Asian, American, and African world, not only Israel. I cannot believe that more than 200 countries in the world fail to obligate Israel to comply with one single UN resolution to the benefit of the Palestinians.”
Jaber Shlash, 34, unemployed
“I am not sure that returning to homelands in Israel can be achieved. But when you are powerless and alone you have to use your claws, teeth and howls to fight like cats, not die like rats. The whole world and Israel must understand that the Palestinians are starving for liberty. Then we will not fight and will teach peace and love, to show we are human not monsters.”