Gaza City – Palestinians in Gaza gathered at the besieged territory’s seaport to mark Land Day, an event that emphasises Palestinian resistance to Israel.
Wednesday’s demonstration saw participants chanting slogans calling for their right to return to the land they were displaced from in 1948, when Israel was created on the majority of historic Palestine.
Palestinians commemorate Land Day on an annual basis, dating back to March 30, 1976, when six unarmed Palestinians were killed by Israeli forces during protests against the Israeli government’s decision to expropriate large tracts of Palestinian-owned land.
Land Day demonstrations in Hamas-run Gaza are usually large, with many residents of the besieged territory originally coming from towns and villages that are now in southern Israel.
Although they are only a short distance away, the vast majority of Palestinians in Gaza have never been able to travel to them.
This year’s event comes at a tense time, with three attacks carried out in just over a week by Palestinians that have killed 11 Israelis.
Maher Mezher, a member of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine attending the event, said that Land Day was part of a wider phenomenon of Palestinians, both inside Israel and in the occupied West Bank and Gaza, reaffirming their national identity.
“The latest wave against Israel in 1948 territories [Israel] reflects the accumulated anger among the Palestinians there, due to Israel’s continued violations against them, and the demolition and confiscation of lands and homes,” Mezher said.
“The land is ours”
Umm Musab Abdel-Al, a 45-year-old mother of seven, told Al Jazeera that she joined the protests with her children to strengthen their attachment to Palestine.
“The land is our land and we will stick to it until the last drop of blood in us,” Abdel-Al said.
Abdel-Al also made reference to Diaa Hamarsha, a Palestinian gunman who killed five Israelis in an attack on Tuesday in the Israeli town of Bnei Brak, before being shot dead by Israeli police.
“Greetings to all our people in the West Bank, in the 1948 territories, and in the Naqab [Negev], and a salute for the soul of the martyr Diaa Hamarsha,” she said.
For his part, Muhammad Baraka, a member of the Palestinian National Committee, said in a speech to the crowds that Palestinians continued to suffer under the occupation.
“The Gaza Strip groans under siege, the West Bank is divided by settlements, and Jerusalem witnesses daily Israeli attempts to assassinate its Arab, Islamic and Christian identity,” Baraka said.
Baraka also called upon Palestinian politicians to end the divisions between them, calling it the “darkest chapter in Palestinian history.”
“Our return is close”
Waving the Palestinian flag, Abu Muhammad Salah, 65 years old, said that he commemorates Land Day every year.
“Every year, my belief increases that our return to our homes is close, and that the end of the Israel occupation is near,” Salah said.
Although this year’s event passed by without any violence, Land Day in Gaza in past years has erupted in clashes at the border fence with Israel
In 2018, Palestinians in Gaza used the day to begin a series of mass protests dubbed the Great March of Return, which lasted two years.
The protests saw major bloodshed with more than 260 Palestinians killed, mostly by Israeli sniper fire.
Nearly 7,000 others were shot and wounded, according to Gaza’s health ministry.
Ni’ma Abu Alomarin was one of those injured. The 22-year-old said that she was supposed to travel to a hospital in Jerusalem for treatment, but was banned from entering.
Despite that, Abu Alomarin attended this year’s event.
“On this day I feel the land is ours,” she said. “Even with my injury, I will not stop, and I will remain faithful to the defence of our cause.”