Gaza rallies: How women shape Great March of Return movement

Palestinian women have been at the forefront of Gaza's protests calling for the return of refugees to their homes.

The Great Return March is a grassroots movement calling for the right of return of Palestinian refugees to their homes, as per UN Resolution 194, from which they were expelled in 1948 when the state of Israel was created. [Hosam Salem/Al Jazeera]

For the seventh Friday in a row, Palestinians in the Gaza Strip have taken part in popular protests calling for their right of return to the homes from which they were expelled from in 1948.

The rallies, launched on March 30, are part of the Great March of Return grassroots movement, which will culminate on May 15 to mark what Palestinians refer to as "the Nakba" or "catastrophe".

On that day 70 years ago, the state of Israel came into being during a violent ethnic cleansing campaign that forcibly expelled more than 750,000 Palestinians from their towns and villages.

Since the start of the protests, the Israeli army has killed 48 Palestinians and wounded more than 8,500 with live ammunition, rubber-coated steel bullets and tear gas bombs. 

As documented in this series of photographs, Palestinian women have been at the forefront of the Gaza protests, taking on many roles as demonstrators, medical volunteers and cooks.

Zahraa al-Najjar, a 23-year-old demonstrator, was shot in her foot during the first day of protests on March 30. She spent six days in the hospital before returning to participating in the rallies. [Hosam Salem/Al Jazeera] Older women cook the traditional Arab flatbread, known as Taboon in Arabic, for their families and the protesters. [Hosam Salem/Al Jazeera] Medical university students have set up several tents along the border to provide help treat those wounded by Israeli forces. [Hosam Salem/Al Jazeera] Young Palestinian women gather rocks to give them to the men throwing stones at Israeli soldiers on the other side of the fortified fence separating the Gaza Strip from Israel. [Hosam Salem/Al Jazeera] A woman wraps keffiyeh, the iconic Palestinian scarf which symbolises resistance, to prevent herself from breathing in the tear gas launched at protesters by the Israeli army. [Hosam Salem/Al Jazeera] At least 70 percent of Gaza's two million population are descendants of Palestinian refugees who were expelled from their homes in 1948 during the creation of Israel. [Hosam Salem/Al Jazeera] Thousands have been participating in the mass sit-in, with dozens of tents erected along the border. Each tent is labelled with the name of the town from which the family was expelled from to create the state of Israel. [Hosam Salem/Al Jazeera] A Palestinian woman and man look out at the other side of the border between the Gaza Strip and Israel. Many refugees living in Gaza hail from towns and villages just a few kilometres from the border, but Israel has prevented them from returning to their homeland. [Hosam Salem/Al Jazeera] Asaad Abu Shariek, a spokesman for the protest movement, said demonstrators were following a path laid down by South Africa during its struggle against apartheid. [Hosam Salem/Al Jazeera]

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Hosam Salem