Palestinians are still demonstrating along the Gaza-Israel border on Fridays, but in fewer numbers and with less fury than seen in recent months as Egyptian mediators work to lessen confrontations along the fence.
For the last six months Palestinian youth have protested by the tens of thousands along the fence that separates Gaza from Israel. Locally the demonstrations reignited a conversation about return to their historic cities and villages that now part of Israel, as 1.3 million of the 1.9 million residents in the Strip are refugees from lands inside of Israel.
But the movement could be winding down.
In late October the Lebanese outlet al-Akhbar reported an agreement between Israel and Hamas that aims to soften violence along the border through the end of 2018. The deal would have Palestinian factions drawing back their support of the weekly marches, thus lowering the number of protesters, in exchange for Israeli forces easing up on lethal fire.
Egypt is expected to pressure Israel to lift 70 percent of the blockade on Gaza and expand the fishing zone by 14 nautical miles. Five thousand Gazan workers under the age of 40 will be allowed to enter Israel for employment, and Egypt will open the Rafah border crossing.
But will the terms approved by the top brass prove effective on the ground? I asked Palestinians in Gaza if they believe protest should be suspended in exchange for an easing of the blockade?
Ayda Darweesh, 50, housewife
“I question why these protest should stop since I am a mother of a martyr and one who was wounded? The sacrifice from my son should not be in vain. Do the Israelis think that creating amputees will be priceless? Then suddenly will we stop protesting? Once [Israel] gives us our rights to live as real humans, then my five sons and I, and all of the demonstrators will spend our Fridays having a peaceful night’s sleep.”
Atallah Fayoumi, 18, unemployed
“I had never been as close to fence as I am now. This is a priceless achievement. Once our sacrifices enable people to restore new yards they have been prohibited before, so that the border areas become full of life and populated. This march must goes on even I lost my second leg, then we must get real achievements like the free world live in.”
Sumayyah Ahmad, 54, protester
“These protesters must continue to rally to lead us to a victory at the end.”
“Our lifestyle of hardships and desires will vanish soon. This same suffering was experienced by our fathers and grandfathers in previous decades. On the other hand, Israel must give us a chance to live freely by putting an end to the 11-year blockade which impacts jobs, power shortages, medical treatment and the drowning sewage. Never mind if the protesters might lose their legs or lives, then a new generation will live in dignity after ending the last occupation in the world.”
Waseem al-Baz, 30, waiter
“As long as medics are treating new amputees, then the marches must be stopped. The only beneficiaries are officials and governments, while the people will get a few more hours of electricity. I can’t afford to get engaged to my sweetheart because I only earn $4 a day.I do not have the ability to leave this job to another, better one where I could earn more, as long as the blockade has a hold over our lives.The Palestinians have been struggling alone for decades and nothing was achieved.”
Malak Nawfal, 18, IT student
“No one can stop the protest until we return to our lands in the historic Palestine, despite thousands of victims who are the fuel of the struggle. Nothing is for free in this world and all are obligated to scarify for a better future.”
Mahmoud al-Aklook, chocolate importer
“The scenes of thousands of wounded and bereaved mothers is heartbreaking. I have not turned on my television for four months to avoid watching such bloody scenes. Everything has an expiration date but this protest seems to be eternal, which mean more victims against a ruthless killer. The protests have caused damage for the Israeli, but what we have gained? ”
Abdulhakeem al-Naffar, metalworker
“After long months of protests, what we have gained is damage to our mental health, this added on top of nearly twelve years of besieged minds. The people who join the protest are escaping from despair and internal crisis. They throw themselves into death because of lack of opportunities. This whole country is facing bankruptcy.
Hala Nawfal, 28, public official
“No truce agreement will have an effect on the ground since Israel is not a direct party. The Israeli leaders deceive us with promises to ease the blockade in order to obligate us to retire. This will happen if a real lifting the siege is taking the place, not just expanding few miles for fishermen or fueling up the generator plant for few hours more. We are talking about humans need a decent life. We will not begging our rights, they should grab them by force.”