In a dim room in a two-story building in al-Shaboora, Rafah, the poorest refugee camp in the southern Gaza strip, five brothers of the Abu Jazar family recall the details and pains of their multiple injuries by Israeli fire during 55 weeks of the Great March of Return protest.
Despite injuries, the brothers all planned to participate in yesterday’s 56th protest.
Ibrahim, 30, is determined to walk again. He has wounds in his right leg from live gunfire from Israeli snipers on March 30. The father of two children, he was injured while calling out loudly to protesters to move close to the fence that separates Gaza from Israel. He now considers himself “powerless” since he cannot operate his grocery and was unable to borrow a wheelchair from a double amputee neighbor, because that neighbor also plans to protest this Friday.
Faraj, 28 and the father of a daughter, sees himself as lucky, since he can easily move to the protest despite being injured three times: once when a tear gas canister hit his hand last May, again when a rubber-coated metal bullet struck his thigh last October, and more recently when a bullet struck his upper arm, which is now fitted with a metal frame called a fixator.
“Despite my young age, Israel’s 12-year blockade and nothing positive whatsoever going on are enough to push young people to protest. We have not seen a single delightful day in our lives,” Faraj told Mondoweiss.
On February, a UN inquiry concluded that Israeli military had intentionally targeted Palestinians protesting in Gaza over the past year, creating a generation of disabled youth. According to the report, Israeli soldiers have targeted civilians, killing and maiming protesters, among them children, as well as journalists and medics.
Ra’eesa, 54, the sons’ stepmother, was preparing anise-flavored-cookies in the kitchen, and could not hide her grief. She said she hopes for her sons to have “more patience to overcome their pains.”
“The young need us to lift their spirits, by showing them tearless eyes,” she said. “But how could a mother hide her sadness, when one is wounded in the day and his brother is wounded before sunset.”
That is what happened to Ashraf 17, and Kayed 19, on February 15th. Each suffered a moderate injury to the leg.
Son Mahmoud, 41, a builder, left the collective interview and returned with a fragment extracted from the back of his head. “Every night I feel my head is boiling due another un-extracted fragment,” he said. He was wounded March 30.
He says: “Once your spirit is full of depression over the years and grown up with specific expressions like: shelling, martyr, blockade, mortar, closure of crossings, unavailable treatment, then one will be fraught with silence and rage and you will run down to the fence to restore some humanity that has been ripped off since you were born.”
The family has suffered in the past. Ra’eesa affirmed that another three sons, Ali, 24, Musa, 22 and Ahmad 36, were injured in a drone shelling in 2004, a tank shelling in 2014 war and during the First Intifada, in 1987.
The sons’ father, Mohammed, 59, says he is powerless to stop his sons’ desire to continue protesting.
“No power could stand again them,” he said. “Their impulse reminds me of the seven years of the 1987 uprising (Intifada), when we were charged with anger to hurl stones at Israeli soldiers… Those days we saw them (soldiers) as monsters break into our homes and lands, killing, arresting and beating us mercilessly until breaking our bones… So the same inner feeling comes up to them to be natural protesters against injustice.”
Palestinians in Gaza demonstrated yesterday for the 56th week running in Gaza as part of the Great March of Return, calling for an end to the crippling 12-year blockade on the small coastal enclave as well as the implementation of the right of return for Palestinian refugees whose families were displaced during the creation of the state of Israel in 1948.
More than 260 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli forces in the context of the march, and another 16,650 have been wounded, according to the Gaza ministry of health.