As the numbers of Palestinians killed and injured while participating in mass non-violent resistance on the Gaza border continues to mount, Israel has sought to deflect culpability by blaming "Hamas and other Palestinian terror organisations" of "igniting a violent confrontation with Israel" through these protests.
This is a lie, according to Shamikh Badra, a Palestinian student from Gaza who played a key role in the civil society groups that initiated this historic non-violent resistance action.
Badra, now pursuing his post-graduate studies in Australia, told Green Left Weekly that the idea was first floated in 2015, by the youth wing of the Palestinian People's Party which he was a leading member.
In an article published by Al Watan, Badra wrote at the time: "We proposed that the Palestinians should create a gap inside the buffer zone, I think the Al Shegaia area is the best place for this gap, because it is close to the center of the Gaza strip".
The idea, Badra explained, was to "create Squares of Resistance" then "widen this gap through rehabilitation, reclaiming lands by planting trees and paving the roads to facilitate the use of ambulances and cars."
"Such voluntary initiatives could help the farmers. They should also prepare and supply first aid points and waters inside the zone.
"Rallies, demonstrations and festivals can be organised in this area as the landmark for the nonviolent resistance."
On February 23, 2018, the General Union of Palestinian Students accepted this initiative.
"After long discussions, meetings and some conferences, the General Union of Palestinian Students succeeded in convincing the Palestinian political parties and other civil society organisations to accept most of the ideas of this initiative," Badra added.
"The Great March of Return mark the day Palestinians call the Nakba or 'Catastrophe', marking the displacement of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians in the conflict surrounding the creation of Israel in 1948. It was also organised as a rejection of the the United States’ decision to move its embassy to Jerusalem.
"The main message of the march is to call for the right of return for Palestinian refugees.
"One of the most important goals of the Great March of Return is to activate non-violent resistance in the Gaza Strip.
"This is only the beginning of a fresh wave of mass struggle demanding Palestinian rights.
"Palestinians are hoping that this march leads to the third Intifada. Despite the Israeli crimes against the civilians, Gaza will resist the oppression, the occupation and the injustice."