RAISING the flag for Palestine 5,400 metres above sea level, following six days and 100 kilometres of walking and climbing mountains, 27 Palestinian men and women reached the base of Mount Everest, last week.
Climb for Palestine, the organisers of the trip, posted on its Facebook page, ‘We are 12 women and 16 men from Palestine. Twenty seven of us have succeeded in reaching Mount Everest base at a height of 5,400 metres above the sea level.’
The group added: ‘We raised the flag of Palestine and slogans of solidarity with the prisoners and Jerusalem, which was the least we could do to our Palestinian cause.’
The group started on their journey on April 19th, as part of a mountain sports adventure and with a goal to place Palestine among the countries that have climbed the mountain, located in the Himalayas, on the borders between China and Nepal.
The peak of Mount Everest is 8,848 metres above sea level, making it the world’s highest mountain and reaching it is more challenging. Despite Mount Everest being dangerous, it attracts many climbers, some of them highly experienced mountaineers.
Although more than 4,000 individuals have scaled the summit since 1953, more than 296 have died trying to reach the peak.
Meanwhile, in Palestine itself, the Palestinian Prime Minister Muhammad Ishtayeh announced the building of urgently needed new hospitals.
The PM received a delegation of the American Federation of Ramallah, Palestine, in his office in the central occupied West Bank city of Ramallah.
The PM updated the delegation on activities that would support the steadfastness of Palestinians in the health and education sectors.
Ishtayeh wished Palestinians a happy Easter, hoping that next year Palestinians would be celebrating in Jerusalem as the capital of the Palestinian state.
He called upon the federation to visit and invest in Palestine in support of the people.
Ishtayeh praised the federation’s role in supporting the health sector in Palestine, especially by bringing in Palestinian doctors to serve Palestinian hospitals, and building six new hospitals in the West Bank.
In Gaza the Israeli authorities detained a Palestinian man, who was escorting his ill wife, while at the Erez crossing (Beit Hanoun) in the northern besieged Gaza Strip.
The Jenin Media Centre said that Karam Mustafa Muhammad Tantawi, 51, from Khan Younis, was escorting his ill wife, Safaa Abed al-Majid Tantawi, 47, back to the Gaza Strip after she had received medication for cancer in Jerusalem City.
The centre reported that the couple left the Gaza Strip, along with her husband, to Jerusalem City for treatment on April 1st, however, on their way back after 20 days of receiving treatment and while at the Erez crossing, the Israeli authorities held her husband for 15 minutes before they ordered her to head back to the Gaza Strip without her husband.
Tantawi refused to leave without her husband and waited for him at the crossing and was then informed by the Palestinian Civil Liaison that her husband was detained.
Erez is the only land crossing between Gaza and Israel, although travel is heavily restricted by Israeli authorities as part of a crippling blockade on the coastal enclave in place since 2007.
Palestinians detained at Erez are often interrogated for several hours, sometimes for days, before they are either allowed into Israel en route to the West Bank or sent back to Gaza.
The Gaza Strip has suffered under an Israeli military blockade since 2007, when Hamas was elected to rule the territory. Residents of Gaza suffer from high unemployment and poverty rates, as well as the consequences of three devastating wars with Israel since 2008.
Young people who have been participating in the ‘Great Right of Return’ marches and protests on the border between Gaza and occupied Palestine have spoken up about why they joined the fight.
Husam, 25, from Khan Younis, southern Gaza said: ‘Last Friday, when I had the Palestinian flag painted on my face, I was hit by a gas canister directly in my back. I was badly injured and transferred to a hospital. I’m now being treated at home. I wish to recover so I can go back to the protests next Friday.
‘Despite the killings and the injuries, I am still going. I think I will keep participating even if it lasts for nine years, not just nine months. One of the worst things I’ve seen was one of the Fridays during which about 60 people were killed, when the soldiers were killing youth randomly and shooting towards heads and legs. It was a horrific day. I felt like I was in a nightmare.
‘It was so hard when I could not save one of my comrades who was bleeding on the ground after being injured by an Israeli sniper, and then he died. I can’t understand how they can kill unarmed people.
‘After nine months, the world is still not doing anything. We need them to stand with us and to stop the killing of the unarmed youth by the occupying forces.’
Ahmad, 24, from Gaza City said: ‘I am a young person who is looking for stability but the occupation has killed all of my dreams and ambitions.
‘It is an occupation of the mind. The challenge in my life is finding a job or any opportunity.
‘We join the demonstrations because this is our land and to demand our rights.
‘But we are making progress through our resistance and our commitment to continue the peaceful, popular struggle.
‘Many of my friends were martyred. I will keep on the path of my comrades, although everything is very difficult here in Gaza.
‘I was injured many times. Once by tear gas and the other by a bullet. But I came back to the field.’
Shireen, 20, from al-Shujaiya, east of Gaza City said: ‘When I go to the protests, I express the anger inside me. We are a nation under siege in a very small area of 360 square kilometres, like a big prison.
‘One of the worst things I’ve seen was when my sister was injured by a bullet. I did not know what had happened, only that she was bleeding a lot.
‘The women are the biggest part of the grassroots movement. Our participation means that our strength as a nation comes from both genders.
‘I did not face any difficulties or criticism from anybody. On the contrary, we found great support from men, families and friends for our participation as women.
‘With the Great March of Return, the world has become aware that there is a nation demanding its rights and that we will not stay silent.
‘The world should support us. I want to live in a developed, free society, which has no occupation, killing or destruction. We are looking for freedom and we will seize it.’
Ismail, 22, from central Gaza said: ‘I do my duty towards my homeland, therefore I join the March of Return. Even if it lasts forever, I will keep coming. I think we are about to realise our goals despite all of the oppression and the siege.
‘It’s a new way to defend our rights and it destabilises the occupying forces.
‘There is no clear future for young people. I am part of the young generation who wish to have a future and dream of nice things like all young people around the world.
‘We have been under siege since I was 11 years old. I grew up and I learned the meaning of not being able to find a job or even to travel.
‘I was injured in my head by a gas canister and I stayed at the hospital for a while with many of my friends. Some of them lost a limb and some were injured by gas and others by an explosive bullet in the stomach.
‘I wish for the world to stand on the side of justice and support us.
‘We are strong and we need them to be next to us. I wish one day I wake up and I find our society finally opened towards the Arab and the Western world, dominated by love and stability.’
Muhammad, 20, from al-Shujaiya, east of Gaza City said: ‘I come from a poor family. I cannot get an education because of the terrible living conditions and the fact that my father cannot afford to pay for my studies. I join the protests every week because I believe we have the right to go back to our houses that we were forced from.
‘I was not alive at the time that my grandparents were displaced from their homes. But today, I am affirming my right to return to my grandparents’ land.
‘There is no future for young people in Gaza. It’s hard losing comrades in the March of Return after snipers shot them with bullets.
‘We usually remember their last words and this pushes us to keep going. I was injured twice, once seriously, but I got back my strength and I rejoined the march. We don’t ask anything from the world but to watch how we can change our reality with our own hands.
‘We need freedom and stability. We want a homeland without occupation.’
Aya, 21, from Gaza City said: ‘I know I could be killed by Israeli snipers, but if I stay home the siege will become worse and the world will forget our cause.
‘We women are strong, just like men, and we will take part in political change. Instead of criticism we received full support from men, family and friends. No one can prevent us from taking part in the protests.
‘At the March of Return, you witness many terrible things. The bloodiest day was 14 May, which was full of tragic scenes that broke our hearts as we watched Israelis killing young people in cold blood. I was injured many times and I recovered and returned to take part with my friends. I have lost loved ones but we are following their path and we will meet in paradise.
‘We have sent a strong message to the world to support us and to put pressure on the occupier to stop its oppression. We are waiting for that to happen, and we continue protesting.’
Asma, 23, from Gaza City said: ‘We women are making a difference in the history of confronting the occupation. We make sure to always be there because we are part of this cause.
‘Yes, women have a role in politics and the struggle. Women and men stand shoulder to shoulder and there is no difference in the way we confront soldiers. I am supported by my family, brothers and friends and there is no criticism from men. On the contrary, they support us.
‘We have lost martyrs and many others were injured.
‘The only thing the world does is that it condemns the excessive killing, which is very bad for us. But we need to see the world uphold its responsibilities towards Palestine and Gaza.
‘I’m looking forward to a society that has freedom and culture and in which women are equal to men, such as in the March of Return.