GAZA CITY: They marched for jobs, they marched for dignity, they marched for an end to the Israeli blockade that blights their lives. But most of all they marched for justice.
More than 40,000 Palestinians gathered at the border between the Gaza Strip and Israel on Saturday to mark the first anniversary of the Great March of Return protests.
They also commemorated Land Day, demanding the right to return to land from which their families were forced to flee in 1948.
Israeli forces have killed dozens of Palestinians in border protests over the past year, and they shot dead three on Saturday, with more than 240 injured. But the march was mostly peaceful, after talks brokered by Egypt.
Many of the protesters told Arab News why they were there. Suad Al-Hassani, 40, who was at the march with her two children, said she and her husband had not had stable jobs for many years, and that this could not continue.
She hoped the protest would help to improve living conditions in the Gaza Strip, allowing her and her family to live in peace and find work. “Palestinians must continue to pressure the occupation until we achieve the lifting of the siege,” she said.
Sarhan Sa’ad, 24, said: “I have participated since the beginning of the demonstrations, we are a generation that has lost so much in our lives. We should not be alone.
“I graduated from university but I can’t work in my specialty. I work as a home electrician, I want to get a job that is suitable for me, develop my skills and build a better future.”
The protests were the only way to pressure Israel and the international community into improving living conditions in Gaza, said Jamil Al-Ajrami, 55.
“I cannot say we have achieved a great victory with the march,” he said, “but I am convinced, with my children, who have been participating most Fridays since the beginning, that we can succeed if the Palestinians unite and continue to pressure the occupation to lift the blockade.”
Hamas officials said Egypt had brokered an understanding under which Israel would ease its blockade of Gaza in exchange for border protests remaining calm.
Khalil Al-Hayya, the group’s deputy head and a member of its political bureau, said Egypt would communicate with Israel on Sunday to obtain a timetable for implementing the understanding.
“We want to end the siege, and the march of return has achieved some of the goals,” he said. “The occupation is in a testing phase, and our people and resistance will continue to pressure the occupation to comply with our legitimate demands.”