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Palestinians Reflect On Their Losses After Last Week's Deadly Protests

May 21, 2018
Originally published on May 23, 2018 7:18 am
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DAVID GREENE, HOST:

As the United States opened its embassy in Jerusalem last week, Palestinians protested in Gaza. Gaza officials say Israeli troops killed more than 60 Palestinians and wounded more than 1,300. Israel says it was responding to violence and protecting its border. Palestinians say Israel was using excessive force against unarmed protesters. This was the deadliest single day of violence in Gaza in years. And Palestinians are now reflecting on their losses. NPR's Daniel Estrin has this story about a Palestinian surgeon who tried to save his own brother's life.

DANIEL ESTRIN, BYLINE: Dr. Mohammed al-Adeini was overseeing the urgent cases at al-Aqsa Hospital in Gaza. Scores of people were being brought in, people shot in the head and neck, massive hemorrhaging. Around 2:00 p.m., two men were wheeled in with gunshot wounds to the abdomen. The doctor tried doing CPR on one of them but he died. Then the doctor looked at the other one. It was his brother, Ahmed. He couldn't believe it. He rushed him into the operating room, but he knew it was too late.

MOHAMMED AL-ADEINI: I knew that we cannot do anything for him.

ESTRIN: Were you the doctor to announce his death?

M. ADEINI: Yes, yes.

ESTRIN: The doctor said his brother had the idea to organize similar protests three years ago. In fact, NPR met him during that time and interviewed him.

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AHMED AL-ADEINI: (Foreign language spoken).

ESTRIN: In the interview, he said he helped organize a confrontation with Israel that was very different from the three recent wars Hamas waged against Israel using rockets and armed militants. It was a small demonstration on the Israeli border with a mix of activities like volleyball and closer to the border, throwing rocks and Molotov cocktails at Israeli forces.

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A. ADEINI: (Foreign language spoken).

ESTRIN: Three years later, the same kind of protests happened only much bigger. He joined the weekly protests over the last month and a half, calling for a return to lands lost when Israel was founded. He was a political activist in a Palestinian faction called the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. It has a militant wing but Adeini says his brother was not a militant. A friend who was with him says he was part of the crowds protesting, but he didn't see him doing anything like throwing rocks towards soldiers.

His friend went with him to get some water, then saw him run back into the crowd near the Israeli border fence and three minutes later, he was carried to an ambulance. He was shot. The Israeli Shin Bet security agency told NPR it had no information about the case. Each week, Ahmed al-Adeini went to the protests. Dr. Adeini told his brother not to put himself in danger close to the border fence.

M. ADEINI: All the time. I was telling Ahmed no. Get away from the fence.

ESTRIN: Palestinians call the protests peaceful and unarmed. Israel says troops opened fire on thousands of protesters threatening to breach the border fence. It says the militant group Hamas was encouraging violence and that more than a dozen people were armed out of the tens of thousands. Now Dr. Adeini sits in his living room, pondering his brother's death and wondering whether the mass protest made any difference.

M. ADEINI: The death of Ahmed make a little crack in my ideas.

ESTRIN: He's saying the death of his brother made a little crack in his idea that such a protest could achieve anything. His brother believed the protest would lead to Palestinians getting back the lands from Israel that their grandfathers lost. Now Dr. Adeini can't see the way forward. His brother is dead, and he is back at the hospital, attending to Gaza's wounded.

Daniel Estrin, NPR News, Gaza. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.