An extract from A suicide in Gaza by Sarah Helm (theguardian.com, 18/5/18):
"Often it has looked as if these protesters were literally throwing themselves in front of Israeli bullets. In the early days of the protests, I spoke to young people on the buffer zone who said they didn't care if they died. 'We are dying in Gaza anyway. We might as well die being shot,' said a teenager, standing at the border near the city of Khan Younis. He was with friends who felt the same, including one who had already been shot in the leg, and was in a wheelchair.
"If the world's cameras were to move a little deeper into Gaza, into the streets and behind the doors of people's homes, they would see the desperation in almost every home. After 10 years of siege, the 2 million people of Gaza, living packed on a tiny strip, find themselves without work, their economy killed off, without the bare essentials for decent life - electricity or running water - and without any hope of freedom, or any sign that their situation will change. The siege is fracturing minds, pushing the most vulnerable to suicide in numbers never seen before.
"Until recently, suicide has been rare here, partly due to Palestinian resilience, acquired over 70 years of conflict, and strong clan networks, but mostly because killing oneself is forbidden in traditional Muslim societies. Only when suicide is an act of jihad are the dead considered martyrs who go to heaven; others go to hell.
"In nearly three decades of reporting from Gaza, I almost never heard stories of suicide before 2016. At the start of that year, nine years into the full-blown siege, a British orthopaedic surgeon volunteering in Gaza's al-Shifa hospital told me that she and her colleagues were seeing a number of unexplained injuries - which they believed had been caused by falling, or jumping, from tall buildings.
"By the end of 2016, suicides were happening so often that the phenomenon had started to become public knowledge. Figures quoted by local journalists suggested the number of suicides in 2016 was at least three times the number in 2015. But according to Gaza's health professionals, while figures cited in the media do indicate a substantial rise, they vastly underestimate the true rate. Suicides are 'disguised' as falls or other accidents, and misreporting and censorship are common because of the stigma against suicide.
"However, since 2016, there have also been a spate of self-immolations across Gaza, in which men set themselves alight for all to see."