May 18th, 2021
By Hamid Riaz, Ahmed Saeed & Hassan Raza 

LAHORE
Apart from the brutal killings of children by Israeli air strikes, the West Bank and Gaza strip now present a picture of mass destruction, with bombed-out homes, severed communication links and closed borders, say Palestinian students in Lahore, who were present during a demonstration at Liberty Chowk against Israeli aggression.
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Voicepk.net spoke to some of these Palestinian students who were participating with hundreds of other civil society activists in the demonstration on May 17 and found out their stories. The Palestinian students opened up about the current situation in Gaza and the West Bank.
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Saif al-Hashim, a Palestinian student participating in the demonstration, told Voicepk.net that his home was on the border of the Gaza strip, and rockets often flew over his house.
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“I feel really sad that I am not able to join my family members and my people in this current insurrection against Israeli aggression,” he said, adding that he had participated in the two Palestinian uprisings against Israeli rule in 2014 and 2016. He said all the borders were closed now. Talking about the current situation in Gaza, Hashim said he was worried about the safety of his family members.
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“The situation is really bad and frightening, but my family and fellow Palestinians are brave and holding on,” he said. “We have to show courage otherwise the enemy will swallow us whole,” Hashim said. He said his family members had sent him terrifying pictures of bombed houses whose shells remain and of a ruined power station. “We have an electricity supply of only four hours in Gaza and I am able to keep in touch with my family during this period only,” he said. Other than that he has no means to know if his family is safe there or not.
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Although Hashim does not live in West Bank, he says life for Palestinians is more challenging and harsh there as compared to Gaza as the residents are besieged by Israeli soldiers at all times. “If we had held a demonstration like this in the West Bank, the protesters might have been shot at by Israeli soldiers,” he added.
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Hashim said almost every Palestinian had lost a close relative or a loved one in the violence perpetrated by Israel.
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“In 2014, I lost my uncle along with his family when Israel bombed their neighbourhood,” he said. The current Israeli aggression in Palestine began in the last decade of Ramazan when the occupying forces tried to evict Palestinian families from the ancient Jerusalem neighbourhood of Sheikh al-Jarrah following a court order. As a result, the protests spread throughout Palestine and intensified when Israeli forces tortured Muslims praying in the Al-Aqsa Mosque. According to Saif Hashim, he himself was seriously injured in the 2014 Israeli aggression and now has to undergo leg surgery every two years. “I was shot with a rubber bullet,” he said.
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Meanwhile, Basel Muhammed, another Palestinian student who took part in the demonstration in Lahore, said he was happy to see so many people expressing solidarity with the Palestinian people. He is a fourth-year civil engineering student at the University of Engineering and Technology in Lahore. “Palestinians need support in their fight against Israeli aggression and I feel proud of my Pakistani brethren for coming out in our cause in such a huge number,” Muhammed said. Speaking about the situation in the West Bank, he said his family lived in a small village surrounded by five Israeli settlements. “Every home in our village has a martyr or a prisoner in Israeli jails since the violence began,” he said. “My grandfather and his brother were martyred in their sleep when Israeli soldiers attacked their house in 1953,” he said. According to Basel Muhammad, his home is located 14 kilometres away from the Al-Aqsa Mosque, but he has only been able to go there once in his life because Israeli forces do not allow anyone to enter.
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“I visited the Al-Aqsa Mosque as a 10-year-old child but now Palestinians from West Bank are barred from visiting the mosque,” he said. “Israel only allows Palestinians living in Jerusalem or those who have a permit since 1948 to visit the holy place. The Israeli settlements in the West Bank and Jerusalem have been increasing despite protests by the Palestinians there.”
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Responding to Israeli accusations that Hamas was hiding behind civilians, Saif Hashim clarified that the Israelis could hide in bunkers to avoid rockets but the Palestinians had no such protection and safety. “We are fighting while standing on our legs and will continue fighting for our rights,” he said.
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Israeli aggression has so far killed more than 200 Palestinians, including 65 children, while Israel has refused to stop the attacks, despite repeated appeals from the international community. Three UN Security Council meetings were held to review the situation and prevent Israeli attacks, but the agreement was never approved due to US opposition, and now all eyes are on the emergency session of the General Assembly for a ceasefire on May 20.

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