Israeli soldiers listen to a briefing on the Israeli side of the border with the northern Gaza Strip, Israel, March 29, 2018..
(photo credit: REUTERS/AMIR COHEN)
Hamas called on Gazans to participate in a protest that is slated to begin on Friday near the border with Israel.
The protest, which is scheduled to last six weeks, aims to achieve the return of Palestinian refugees (and their descendants) to their former homes and villages in Israel, according to organizers.
“Hamas calls on the masses of our people everywhere to participate in the March of Return,” the Islamist movement that controls Gaza said on Thursday, referring the popular name for the protest.
Israel has accused Hamas of orchestrating the protest.
However, Ahmad Abu Ratima, an organizer of the protest, told The Jerusalem Post
on Wednesday that Hamas is only one of many parties organizing the event.
Hamas also called for protesters to commit to “peacefulness” during the protest and “avoid any behavior that could cause it to deviate from its goal.”
Hamas rarely makes explicit calls on Palestinians to adhere to peaceful protest and frequently advocates for violence against Israelis.
Several Israeli officials have said security forces will respond forcefully to anyone who threatens Israeli lives.
“If there will be a danger to lives, we will authorize live fire,” IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Gadi Eisenkot said in interviews published in several Hebrew newspapers on Wednesday. “The orders are to use a lot of force.”
Abu Ratima said that the protest will be “nonviolent and peaceful.”
“We have even decided that no rocks will be thrown,” he said.
Abu Ratima also said the protest on Friday will take place some 700 meters away from the border fence. However, he said that at a later date in the coming weeks, the protest’s leadership could decide to call on protesters to approach the fence.
In the past week, four groups of Palestinians have breached the fence between Israel and Gaza.
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