Thousands of Palestinians across the 48 territories -Israel-, in the occupied West Bank and in the Gaza Strip marched on Wednesday to commemorate the 40th Land Day, protesting decades of Israeli land grabs.
On 30 March 1976, the Israeli occupation forces (IOF) expropriated 21 thousand Dunams of Palestinian land in Al-Jalil (Galilee), Al-Mothallath and Al-Naqab (Negev) and responded violently to the protestations, killing six young Palestinian demonstrators.
Since then, Palestinian people remember and protest this confiscation and demand their right to return to their homeland, marking this day as the “Land Day”.
According to Lamis Andoni from Al Jazeera English, “The Palestinian “Land Day” marked the first act of collective civil disobedience against the racist colonization and dispossession of the Palestinians of their lands and rights since the creation of Israel in 1948.”
This year, in Ramallah district, Palestinian students from al-Quds Open University and Modern University College, who were marking Land Day, managed to cut through a barbed-wire section of Israel’s apartheid wall east of al-Bireh.
The IOF later attacked the students firing rubber-coated steel bullets, sound bombs, and tear gas.
PLO Secretary-General Saeb Erekat said in a statement: “Rather than supporting the two-state solution on the 1967 border, the Israeli government continues to consider all of historic Palestine as part of Israel with the aim to impose two different systems, an Apartheid regime.”
In front of Ofer prison, southwest of Ramallah, the IOF fired tear gas at protesters, causing many to suffocated.
Dozens of Palestinians also suffered suffocation as the IOF suppressed a protest in Nablus using tear gas and pepper spray.
There were also demonstrations in historical Palestine -Israel-, including in Umm al-Hiran, a Bedouin community in the Negev which Israel plans to displace in order to expand the suburbs of Beersheba city.
According to local sources, both Palestinians and Israeli activists took part in the protest, including the head of Israeli group Rabbis for Human Rights, Rabbi Arik Ascherman.
In the Gaza Strip, hundreds of Palestinians marched from Gaza city towards the Erez crossing in the coastal enclave’s north, waving Palestinian flags and demanding the right of return of Palestinian refugees forced to leave their land when Israel was created in 1948.
“As the Palestinian people mark Land Day, they are still facing an (Israeli) policy based on ethnic cleansing and land confiscation, and the Netanyahu government continues with its racist plans to deport the Palestinians and build Israeli settlements and separation walls,” Senior Fatah leader Zakariyya al-Agha speaking about the Gaza demonstration.
According to he Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistic (PCBS), Israel laid hand over more than 85% of the total area of historical land of Palestine – Israel- which totals about 27,000 km2.
Palestinians living there comprise 48% of the total population, but utilize only 15% of the land.
Israel also set up a buffer zone along the Gaza Strip extending over 1,500 m along the eastern ‘border’.
Consequently, the zone usurps about 24% of the total area of the Gaza Strip (365 km²), which is one of the most densely populated area in the world with about 5,000 capita/km².
Furthermore, Israel maintains tight control over more than 90% of the area of the Jordan Valley, which constitutes 29% of the total area of the occupied West Bank.