‘Revolutionary Youth’ suspends Gaza border protests amid regional mediation – Mondoweiss

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Weeks after a series of popular protests reminiscent of the Great March of Return started up on Gaza’s borders, the group responsible for the actions — going by the name of the “Revolutionary Youth” — has suspended the protests. 

On Thursday, September 28, the group issued an abrupt declaration that the protests would be halted after Qatari and Egyptian “mediators” pledged that Israel would halt its violence against Palestinian prisoners and against worshipers at the al-Aqsa Mosque.

Israeli media reported that the “mediators” were from Qatar, who allegedly sent a message to Hamas that they would pay the salaries of governmental employees in Gaza, while Qatari aid to Gaza would also be increased. 

Historically, Qatar, Egypt, and the UN envoy to Palestine have served as mediators between the Hamas government in Gaza and Israel. The Israeli media reported that Egypt also played a role in de-escalating the recent protests and that Hamas leaders in Gaza told the Egyptians that they would work on ending them, albeit without giving any guarantees.

Israeli forces killed 7 Palestinians throughout the protests and injured almost a hundred people. 

How the protests started

In the past few weeks, ambulance sirens could be heard moving up and down al-Mansura Street in eastern Gaza several times a day — the direct road between Gaza’s eastern border with Israel and the nearest hospital. Every time people heard the sound of the ambulance, they would know that a member of the Revolutionary Youth had been injured. Many people would come down from their homes and line the streets, their eyes following the ambulances as they whizzed past. A few people would utter a prayer for the youths’ speedy recovery, and like that, the topic of the Revolutionary Youth would become the main topic of conversation among locals who monitor the developments on the ground and through their phone screens.

The group of people that turned up to protest at Gaza’s militarized border are a panoply of youth and political activists. Many of them are veterans of the Great March of Return — which took place between 2018 and 2019 — and several of them are still bearing the scars and injuries that they sustained during those days of protest. But what is most notable about this recent bout of direct action at the border is that the protesters are now operating under a name. The Revolutionary Youth is a seemingly amorphous combination of Great March of Return icons and younger Gazans incensed at the news of recent settler attacks against Palestinians in Jerusalem, as well as the crackdown of Israeli authorities on the Palestinian prisoners’ movement.

“I came here knowing that I may lose my life, but I offer my soul to my homeland and my people without a second thought,” 24-year-old Muhammad Nasser, one of the early participants in the protests, told Mondoweiss. “The occupation has left me nothing. It has done away with our lives. So the best way to use my life is to give it to resisting the occupation.” 

This isn’t the first time that Nasser has participated in protests at Gaza’s borders — he used to go to the same place every Friday during the Great March of Return protests and was injured several times. He now walks on crutches, one of his leg bones shortened by 5 centimeters due to an injury he suffered during the march.

The area where the actions are now taking place on Gaza’s border fence is also no stranger to protests. Only a few months ago, Gazans held a “Palestinian flag march” in solidarity with Palestinians in Jerusalem in the wake of the right-wing settler Flag March that took place in May; years before that, the area was home to the Great March of Return actions. As a result, the rolling field in eastern Gaza that stretches to the border fence by now resonates with an atmosphere of resistance.

Who are the ‘Revolutionary Youth?’

The origins of the “Revolutionary Youth” remain unclear. When the crowds gather near the border ahead of a protest, they are indistinguishable from everyone else who is present, but when the actions are underway, they immediately stand out through their daring actions. They protest in the front lines, lead sabotage missions on the border fence, light tires on fire to serve as a smokescreen to cloud the vision of Israeli snipers, release incendiary balloons, and, in some cases, attempt to get close enough to the border fence to shoot Israeli soldiers using handguns. 

On the first day of protest on September 14, six of them were martyred during an apparent attempted sabotage operation. Their funerals gave an indication of their factional and political backgrounds — a mix of all of Gaza’s factions, including Hamas. The circumstances of their deaths reveal that they were not part of an organized mission, but rather an informal group of experienced protesters. 

The government in Gaza states that the protests coalesced without governmental sponsorship or coordination, and when Mondoweiss pushed for further comment from government sources, they responded that they could not provide more details that relate to resistance activities (even if only “popular resistance”).

Yet, while the government denies any formal involvement in the protests, Israel has seen fit to penalize Hamas for the actions of the Revolutionary Youth, launching several airstrikes on various Hamas military sites throughout the Gaza Strip. The airstrikes took place following the spread of several small fires in various areas inside Israel caused by Palestinian incendiary balloons.

The response of the government in Gaza to the Israeli strikes has been to voice support for the protests; Hamas spokesperson Hazem Qasem issued a statement after Israel bombed several Hamas locations, vowing that the Israeli airstrikes would not halt Palestinian resistance to the religious war that Israel was waging against Palestinian holy sites. 

“Our people and our resistance will always support all forms of Palestinian struggle as a legitimate right,” he stated.

But beyond the political origins of the Revolutionary Youth, their social origins are clear for all to see. For protesters like Muhammad Nasser, who belongs to a family of seven (four of whom are young and unemployed), no justification is needed for his choice to participate in the actions.

“Israel left us no choice but to revolt,” he told Mondoweiss. “Coming here and resisting the true cause of our crises is better than remaining helpless and facing disability.” 

Nasser witnessed the death of over ten friends and family members during the various marches at Gaza’s borders. “All my friends were killed by Israel,” he said. “They sacrificed their lives for Palestine and for freedom.”

There are countless other young people like Nasser and his martyred friends. They show up to the field not just because they choose to, but because they have to.

“Everyone at this protest is a ‘revolutionary youth.’ Everyone is refusing Israeli terror,” Nasser explained. “And everyone who refuses the harsh conditions Israel imposes on us is a revolutionary youth.”

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