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    Palestinians shout during clashes with Israeli troops, during a tent city protest along the Israel border with Gaza, demanding the right to return to their homeland, the southern Gaza Strip March 30, 2018.

    ‘Total Impunity': Israel Clamps Down on Land Day Protests With ‘Bloodbath'

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    Israeli forces killed an estimated 16 Palestinians in the Gaza Strip Friday as thousands participated in Land Day protests calling for the return of land taken in 1976 to set up Israeli settlements.

    Dubbed the Great March of Return, the demonstration is expected to last a total of six weeks. More than 1,000 protesters have been injured, according to the Gaza Ministry of Health, some of them hurt by live weapons fire, the Middle East Eye reported.

    However, according to the Israeli military, their violent response to the demonstrators took place because "rioting" broke out at various sites along the border.

    Speaking to Radio Sputnik's Loud & Clear, journalist and filmmaker Dan Cohen explained that Israel's aggressive response to the protests is another example of the state suppressing Palestinians because they're not Jewish.

    "I think we have to understand why [Palestinians] are marching… and why Israel is responding with such heavy-handed violence," Cohen told show hosts John Kiriakou and Walter Smolarek. "It's not because these refugees pose any kind of physical threat, but simply because they do not fit the definition of what the state wants for the Israeli citizens — meaning they are not Jewish… and so for that they are gunned down mercilessly."

    "They're also being heavily suppressed with tear gas… it's basically a bloodbath that should be rightly understood as a massacre," he added.

    Land Day protests occur every year, but this one has taken on an added dimension, Cohen explained.

    "This year it's a major organized rally and I think it's kind of in response to the increased Israeli aggression, ongoing siege, life being completely unbearable and there being no future for any Palestinian," he said. "I haven't been back for a year but everytime I go back there's this increasing sense of desperation, where you could see it in people's body language… the best job a young person can hope for is a taxi driver and that's just to make ends meet."

    "More than 50 percent of the population is under 18 with absolutely no future and so that's just a perfect recipe for deep frustration," he said. "You have young people going to the border to voice their discontent with being locked in a tiny bombed-out cage."

    But the rising death toll isn't likely to push any world leader into pressuring Israel to back off, Cohen told Kiriakou.

    "Palestinians are more isolated than ever," the filmmaker said. "Hamas maintains some connection to Qatar and to Iran, but even Qatar is even trying to cozy up to the US through Israel. From the West, from the US and the EU, it's a total green light to continue to colonize Palestinian land… to shoot young people, people of all ages, men, women, children, to shoot them down and kill them."

    Cohen later noted, "countries that are designated enemies of the US.. are decried for alleged human rights violations [but when it comes to] Israel… it's complete and total impunity for the… apartheid state."

    In the end, the filmmaker says Israel's strategy with Gaza "is to keep it hovering right above the breaking point where life is unbearable but there's not a mass explosion of violence."

    UN Deputy Political Affairs Chief Taye-Brook Zerihoun informed the United Nations Security Council Friday that the situation in Gaza "might deteriorate in the coming days" and called on Israel to only use lethal force as a last resort. 

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    Tags:
    land day, protests, Gaza Strip, Palestine, Israel
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