Normally residents of the Gaza Strip keep well back from the towering cement barriers that wall them in. The enclave’s northern boundary is stippled with robotic machine guns aimed toward the expanse of empty space in front of it, a “buffer zone” that further reduces the available living area for the 2 million Palestinians already crowded into the world’s most densely populated confinement.
But in April, the idea of massing at the wall was floated on social media, and quickly taken up by Hamas, the Islamist Palestinian party that controls Gaza. The goal was to draw attention to the forgotten, squalid hopelessness of the Gaza Strip — populated overwhelmingly by descendants of Palestinians who lost their homes in the 1948 war that established Israel as a state, and the subsequent battles that cemented its regional dominion.
And so a no-go zone became a protest zone. Whole families camped out beside what hand been no-man’s land, and lines of demonstrators edged toward the Israeli military massed on the wall. The result was written in blood: Of 97 dead and more than 3,400 wounded since late March, most were cut down on May 14: by nightfall the day’s fatalities totaled 55, with 2,700 injured. The scenes recorded below by Emanuele Satolli, mostly in the Malaka area east of Gaza City, offer a profound statement of Palestinian powerlessness and Israeli military domination, 70 years to the day after Israel declared its independence in 1948. President Donald Trump’s Administration marked the anniversary by officially opening the U.S. embassy in Jerusalem, making America the first foreign power to undercut Palestinian aspirations to share the city. Cable TV told the story of the day on a split screen: Israeli decorum on one side, and violent confrontation on the other.
Palestinians were prepared to remain at least overnight, May 15 being their commemoration of the end of the 1948 war, known as Nakba, Arabic for “catastrophe.”