The following piece is an eyewitness report written by Gazan activist and author Rana Shubair, at the request of ‘Socialist Struggle Movement’ (SSM), the CWI section in Israel-Palestine.
The article is followed by two videos. The first one is a footage taken on the 14 May Gaza protests by Rana’s daughter; the second one is a footage of SSM members taking part in a protest against the killings of Gaza protesters on 18 May at Yad Mordekhay Junction in Israel, near the Gaza fence.
May 14 was the first day of summer holiday for school kids here. They finished finals a day before and Monday was supposed to be a family day of going out. However, my kids surprised me this year by not nagging me to take them out somewhere as usual. The only place they wanted to go was to the March of Return.
There was much exhilaration in the air the days before, and we all felt that Monday would be the momentum of the March. It turned out to be so, yet the Israeli soldiers made it a day of mourning for us.
We got there (to the protest east of Gaza city) around noon and the first thing I saw was a large Palestinian flag waving up high, which filled me with hope and courage. The encampment area was flooding with people gathering in different areas. Many sat under tents and a lot more stood and sat 300 meters away from the barbed fence.
Down toward the fence, black smoke from burning tires filled the air and every now and then protestors would be met with a torrent of tear gas canisters. Some wore masks to protect themselves, others had rackets to bounce back the canisters and many ran in the opposite direction to avoid inhaling the gas. As I got closer to the area of gathering, the air began to feel heavy.
The number of ambulances was more than those of any other day. They were all over the place and maneuvered from different points.
Beside me on a small berm stood a bunch of women who were making supplication in loud voices calling for victory.
An old man sat on a chair in front of a camera and was being interviewed. He looked over eighty and had lots of stories to tell. He was a Nakba survivor and older than the occupying state of Israel.
Still standing at the dirt berm, I heard sporadic rattles of gunfire. Before I had reached the encampment, the death toll of killed protestors was 16. Moments later, I heard the number rise to 30.
Given this crazy escalation in killings, I expected people to disperse. But what I found was the exact opposite. They stood there tenaciously and only grew more adamant by the minute.
The March has invigorated hope into us all in many ways. Young people stood fearlessly defying the heavily fortified Israeli snipers who could so easily choose to take out any one of them. As I stood there I thought: All their movements are measured and calculated. In fact, what they do is much like what poachers do. They watch their helpless prey and seize the opportunity to shoot.
At the end of the day, the toll stood at 60 killed protestors. It was a bloody and unforgettable day, which added another Nakba to our history. Yet, our firm belief is that the bloodshed of the innocent will be the seeds that bloom our freedom one day.