After at least 17 Palestinians were killed and more than 1,400 injured by Israeli fire at the Gaza border on 30 March, Palestinians were observing a national day of mourning on 31 March.
Thousands of people were attending the funerals of those who were killed during a “Land Day” protest symbolically demanding a right for Palestinians to return to former family homes in what is now Israel. The protest, the largest seen in Gaza in years, coincided with Palestinian Land Day, which remembers the confiscation of Palestinian-owned land in Israel in 1976.
World Council of Churches general secretary Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit decried both the violence and the denial of the right to nonviolent and peaceful protest on the border.
“This has become a critical situation for people’s lives and people’s dignity in Gaza,” he said and added: “The events the last days shows that it is urgent to respond to the extremely difficult life conditions in Gaza with constructive and just solutions.” Tveit underlined: “We call on the Israeli government to guarantee human rights, the freedom of speech and the need for just peace and decent living conditions for all people.”
Tveit added: “We also call for support and action from the international community to end the blockade of Gaza. We all need to commit to the moral value of justice and peace: both parties would be blessed by a lasting solution, and it would be an important contribution to world peace.”
The 30 March protest was the single deadliest day in the Israel-Palestine conflict since the 2014 Gaza War. Today, some 1.3 million Palestinians living in Gaza are registered refugees, according to the United Nations.
Tveit called for prayers and solidarity with the people of Gaza. “We pray for the victims and their families,” he said, “and we seek God’s mercy, love and grace that we may be empowered with strength to continue our work for justice and peace.”