On Sunday, April 29, Israeli police shot and killed three Palestinians who allegedly tried to breach the border between Gaza and Israel. Two Palestinians allegedly tried to enter Israel and attack police with explosives, and a third tried to breach the border, according to the Associated Press.
The three Gazan’s deaths come during the fifth week of what Palestinians are calling the “March of Return” movement. The goal of these protests is to support Palestinians’ right to return to the land they believe Israel stole from them, according to Al Jazeera.
Protests will culminate on May 15, the 70th anniversary of Israel’s independence. Palestinians refer to this day as Nakba, the Arabic word meaning “catastrophe”. Ismail Haniyeh, the head of Hamas’ political arm, told Haaretz, an Israeli newspaper, “The Palestinian people will demonstrate throughout Ramadan to deal with the many challenges facing us, and first of all, the peace plan promoted by U.S. President Donald Trump called the ‘Deal of the Century’.”
The “March of Return” initially intended to be a nonviolent protest. However, in the five weeks, since Palestinians began gathering at the Gaza border, 39 have died and more than 5,500 have suffered injuries, according to Haaretz.
Israel’s response to the protestors ignited debate over the army’s actions, with many condemning the army’s decision to open fire on the demonstrators. Israel’s government defended its actions by claiming that a breach of the border with Gaza would threaten Israeli lives, according to the Wall Street Journal. Left-wing politicians in Israel called for the army to limit its “trigger happy” policies and treat protestors more humanely.
On his first trip abroad since his confirmation and swearing in, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo expressed his support for Israel. The New York Times reports that in a news conference in Amman, Jordan, Pompeo said, “We do believe the Israelis have the right to defend themselves, and we’re fully supportive of that.”
Analysts said the violence reflected increased tension among Palestinians in Gaza. In February, a bomb exploded and killed four soldiers guarding the border fence. Israel’s army retaliated by striking Hamas military positions and blamed the group for the continued attacks from Gaza. The army also stated that it had apprehended Palestinians who entered Israel from Gaza, three of whom were armed with knives and hand grenades.
Currently, many Palestinians share a feeling of hopelessness. As the New York Times reported, Gaza’s 64 percent youth unemployment rate “presents countless [youth] with the grimmest of options.” Without access to jobs, many Palestinians join armed movements or wait for an agreement allowing them to move into Israel. Israelis, however, fear a stream of Palestinians rushing into the country if Israel were to undo the blockade set up between themselves and the Arab territories.
Increased violence between Israel and Palestine comes as Israel engages itself in more regional disputes. On April 30, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu delivered an address claiming that Iran violated terms of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), according to The Economist. Under JCPOA, Iran agreed to end its nuclear weapons program in exchange for sanctions relief. Many believe that Netanyahu’s address aimed to convince Donald Trump to leave the agreement by May 12, the date he must re-commit U.S. participation or leave.
In addition, Israel is widely suspected of carrying out a recent airstrike on a Syrian military base, according to CNN. This strike “is a reminder that proxy wars continue in Syria amidst the ongoing seven-year conflict,” according to CNN.
As Israel approaches the May 15 holiday, also significant because it is the date marked for the official U.S. embassy movement to Jerusalem, the country will brace for more violence inside and outside of its borders.