GAZA STRIP — Palestinians in Gaza, who hope to make East Jerusalem their capital, staged mass demonstrations Monday, setting fires and throwing firebombs across the border into Israel. Israeli soldiers shot and killed more than 50 Palestinians.
The protesters were angry about the new U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem. They’ve been demonstrating for six weeks now, with 40,000 of them turning out Monday, according to Israel. The demonstrations have been encouraged by Hamas, the militant group that has controlled the Gaza Strip since 2007.
Israeli soldiers dropped tear gas canisters from drones. They had already dropped leaflets warning Palestinians not to get too close to the fence marking the border, and when they did, the Israelis used live ammunition.
Palestinians want to return to lands they fled in 1948 when the state of Israel was founded. They are furious over what they say is American bias towards Israel. But with their slingshots and burning tires, the protesters — including six children who were reportedly killed on Monday — are badly outmatched.
Many Palestinians, like Hakam Abushanab, who wants to study for a master’s degree, believe dancing with death is the only way to show their desperation.
"Dying here is the only way of at least expressing our feeling to the world," Abushanab said. "Show them that we are dying every day here."
The protests are also fueled by economics. Gaza has been under a blockade for more than 10 years now. Nearly half of the territory’s young people can’t find jobs, and most families depend on humanitarian aid.
Most people are just trying to get on with their lives, in spite of frequent power cuts and shortages of goods. There are more protests planned Tuesday, to mark the 70th anniversary of what the Palestinians call their "catastrophe" — the founding of the state of Israel.