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As Israelis head to the polls to determine their next government, Palestinians in Gaza are voicing their political will through another project: weekly Great March of Return protests.
Thousands of people will demonstrate on Israel’s border Friday to demand the end of the 12-year Israeli blockade on the Gaza Strip and the right of return for those expelled from their villages in 1948. Launched last March, these weekly protests have become many Gazans’ last resort.
“[We are protesting] to call for our rights,” 21-year-old protester Louai al-Jammal told VICE News at a recent demonstration. “To break the siege Gaza is under. To break the siege the Gaza Strip is suffering from.”
These demonstrations have come at a high cost: At least 270 demonstrators have been killed in altercations with the Israeli military since protests began, according to Gaza’s Health Ministry.
Many Gazans blame Israel and the blockade for their low quality of life: daily power outages, a lack of access to basic medicines, crumbling infrastructure, and an unemployment rate above 50 percent.
But others like 30-year-old Ameen Abed believe Hamas, the militant group that governs the strip, is also at fault. In March, Abed and hundreds of others participated in “We Want to Live” protests, calling on Hamas to improve living conditions and reverse tax hikes. Hamas responded violently, beating dozens of people, including journalists and human rights activists.
“I witnessed the severe beating and all of my friends were jailed [by Hamas security forces]. Threat messages were sent to me that I'll be shot,” Abed told Vice News.
Now, Abed is in hiding. “I am afraid of even talking to my girlfriend, that the call might be monitored," he said. “When I walk in the street I keep on looking over my shoulder.”
When asked why he was talking to Vice News, Abed responded: “I will continue to talk till the end. There is nothing left to cry about or to lose. We already lost our future and our life.”
Shot by Daniel Bateman and edited by Alejandro Soto.