Thousands of Palestinians are marching and staging sit-ins at Israeli borders and checkpoints on Friday in an unprecedented mass action campaign, demanding the right to return to homes that they lost when the Israeli state was established in 1948.
“We are tired of waiting, we are returning now. This will be a peaceful march from beginning to end. We shall carry no weapons, we shall shoot no bullets, and throw no stones,” said organizers of the Great Return March (GRM).
Armed with only the flag of Palestine and banners bearing the text of United Nations Resolution 194 that guarantees Palestinian refugees the right to return to their homes, organizers have consistently stressed the peaceful nature of the march.
In response to the peaceful protest, the Israeli army has deployed extra troops, snipers and drones at checkpoints and border crossings, reported the Middle East Monitor. According to the International Middle East Media Centre, the Israeli army has been placed on high alert.
“Sit-in may last for months”
Tents for media, portable loos, electricity cables and water pipes, and shaded areas for crowds have been installed east of Khan Younis, Rafah and al-Breej near the border fence that separates Israel from Gaza. A large network of Palestinian activists – backed by the Palestinian factions Fatah, Hamas and PFLP – is preparing for a 46-day mass march to demand their right of return to their villages and towns in what is now Israel. The protests are expected to continue until 15 May, which marks the 70th anniversary of the Palestinian Nakba (Catastrophe).
Sit-ins will start in the besieged Gaza Strip and spread to the occupied West Bank, East Jerusalem and within Israel itself. Hundreds of thousands of Palestinian refugees from refugee camps across Jordan, Lebanon and Syria are also expected to participate in the mass action.
“It is a sustained and cumulative struggle, not a seasonal or a one-day event. It will only end with the actual return of Palestinian refugees and the sit-in may last for weeks or months,” the organizing committee said to the Afro-Palestine Newswire Service.
“We’re not calling for removing anybody from existence or displacing anybody from their place, we’re simply calling for justice for the seventy-year-old plight of the Palestinian refugees – whose weapons are their rights and UN Resolution 194,” GRM spokesperson, Ahmed Abu Irtema, told The New Arab news agency.
The march also comes at a time when many Palestinians believe there is an Israeli-American plan to liquidate the whole Palestinian cause – a plan that started with US recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and taking the city’s status off the negotiation table.