Special Report to HT by Julie Webb-Pullman
HAVANA TIMES, March 31 — Over 50,000 people gathered at Beit Hanoun in the north of the Gaza Strip yesterday for the Global March to Jerusalem.
With the exception of a hundred or so people between the back of the stage and the Erez crossing a kilometer away, the enormous crowd was peaceful and well-behaved, but determined to make their point on Palestinian Land Day.
As most listened attentively to the speeches — standing in the crowd, sitting on the sidelines or beating drums — a few set tires alight and made occasional attempts to burst through the security line.
Despite frequent provocations, the security forces were extremely restrained, using only as much force as was necessary to encourage the mostly young male protagonists to retreat – which was often more the threat of force rather than its actual application.
Merely raising a baton in the air or riding a horse towards those trying to break through was usually sufficient to encourage them to back off, although there were a few exchanges of blows. On the whole, the trouble-makers were quickly identified and removed, under the intense media scrutiny.
Despite the peaceful conduct of the majority of the GMJ marchers, some protestors did make it through to the Erez crossing, where some tore down part of a metal fence near the wall and were fired upon by Israeli soldiers, according to a Twitter report from one activist.
The overall toll in Gaza included the death of Mahmoud Zakot, 20, who was killed by Israeli fire near Erez, and injuries to 31 others – six of whom requiring hospitalization in nearby Khan Younis. Palestinian official medical spokesperson Adham Abu Salmiya said this evening that three of those injured are in a critical condition.
With few exceptions, the Global March to Jerusalem was a resounding success in Gaza, making its point peacefully and pointedly.
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