A picture of a young Palestinian boy, who used spring onions in a surgical face mask to protect himself from tear gas fired at Palestinian protesters by the Israeli troops, is becoming the symbol of Palestinian resistance.
Nine-year-old Mohamed Ayyash was pictured wearing the makeshift onion mask near the Gaza-Israel border during the “Land Day” protest — an annual commemoration of the deaths of six Arab citizens of Israel killed by Israeli security forces during demonstrations over government land confiscations in northern Israel in 1976.
Ayyash originally got the idea of the onion mask from his father, who used to wear an identical mask during the first Palestinian uprising against the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza, also known as the first Intifada.
He is among the thousands of protesters in Gaza demanding the right to return to the homes their families fled from, or were driven out of, when the state of Israel was created in 1948.
"My father got injured in the first Intifada and used to tell me stories about (the onion mask)," he said.
"I tried to recreate it and then it came out like that. I didn't expect that my picture would go viral."
Ayyash’s family used to live in Yaffa but was displaced during the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians by Zionist militias in 1948. They now live in Maghazi camp, which is located in the center of the Gaza Strip.
After his pictures went viral, the courageous boy gave an interview to Al-Jazeera explaining he wasn’t scared of the Israeli troops.
"I don't fear them, they fear us," Ayyash said.
"They're scared because they have no land here, they came from a different land and they want to take Jerusalem," he added.
When the reporter asked him the reason for his protests, he said, "My goal is to take back my land, my grandparents' land and the memories of my family."
The reporter then questioned Ayyash if he could achieve these goals with all the arms and snipers around him.
“Of course I can. And even if I die as a martyr others will continue,” said the fearless boy.
Senior political Palestinian leader Ismail Haniyeh awarded Ayyash for his bravery and determination.
Israeli troops reportedly killed at least 20 and wounded more than 150 Palestinians along the Israel-Gaza border on Friday; the death toll for the recent protest stands at 22.
Thumbnail/Banner: Reuters, Beawiharta