Israel + 1 more

For humiliated Palestinians, a long march home

News and Press Release
Originally published
by Nidal al-Mughrabi

GAZA, Feb 20 (Reuters) - Their heads bent against the ocean spray, Palestinians trudged along a wind-swept beach to detour Israeli road checkpoints that severed the Gaza Strip after rockets fired by militants hit a town in southern Israel.

Israel called its decision to slice the Gaza Strip into three a security move, aimed at stopping rocket attacks. Palestinians said on Thursday the travel restrictions were humiliating and only stoked anti-Israeli feeling and violence.

"Chickens hate to be caged -- what about humans?" asked 70-year-old Aleya al-Smairi, her face to the wind as she walked two kilometres (one mile) along a Gaza City beach in search of a taxi to take her to hospital to get medicine for her diabetes.

Some women carried their children as waves came crashing in. Others took a ride on a donkey cart, a cottage industry that flourishes whenever Israeli forces close roads.

This time, the travel clampdown was imposed after rudimentary Qassam rockets fired from the Gaza Strip rained down on the southern Israeli town of Sderot on Wednesday, wounding three people.

The rocket attack followed Israel's killing of 11 Palestinians, including two gunmen and four security officers, during military raids on workshops suspected of manufacturing the weapons.

It was a cycle of violence that has spun repeatedly during the past 28 months of Israeli-Palestinian fighting.

For Smairi, the exhausting trip from her Wadi Al-Salqa village in the central Gaza Strip to Gaza City stirred memories of the day she and her family fled the Israeli city of Beersheba during the 1948 Middle East war.

That conflict displaced hundreds of thousands of Palestinians and marked the birth of Israel.

"I witnessed the era of the British (mandate over Palestine)...but I never felt as sad and humiliated as I have these days," Smairi said.

Palestinian taxi driver Jaber al-Arouqi, 45, said he abandoned his car near an Israeli blockade and took to the beach to walk to his home in a refugee camp on the edge of Gaza City.

"Humiliation at checkpoints can only increase the hatred and push Palestinians to resist and attack," he said, blaming the United States and Arab leaders for much of the Palestinian misery.

"May God help Saddam Hussein to defeat America and all Arab traitors," he said about the Iraqi leader facing possible attack by the United States over alleged weapons of mass destruction.

Reuters - Thomson Reuters Foundation
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