The Palestinians are planning mass demonstrations along the border between the Gaza Strip and Israel on March 30 to mark the second anniversary of the Great March of Return and Land Day.
Last December, the Palestinians decided to postpone the weekly protests until the end of March 2020. It’s not clear whether the planned mass demonstrations signal the resumption of the weekly protests.
The decision to temporarily suspend the Great March of Return, launched in March 2018, was apparently taken under pressure from the Egyptians as part of Cairo’s effort to reach a ceasefire understanding between Israel and Hamas.
The decision to resume the protests near the border with Israel is likely to increase tensions between Hamas and Egypt, Palestinian sources in Gaza City said. “The Egyptians are putting heavy pressure on Hamas to refrain from escalating tensions with Israel,” the sources added. “Egypt is already upset with Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh because of his visit to Iran last December. That’s why they have prevented him from returning to the Gaza Strip.”
Haniyeh, who left the Gaza Strip in early December 2019, is reported to have enraged the Egyptians by visiting Iran to attend the funeral of Qassem Soleimani, commander of Iran’s Quds Force, who was assassinated by the Americans in Iraq on January 3.
An Egyptian security delegation visited the Gaza Strip last week for talks with Hamas leaders on ways of avoiding an all-out military confrontation with Israel.
Some Palestinian factions in the Gaza Strip have criticized Hamas for suspending the weekly protests, arguing that the demonstrations did not achieve their main goal: ending the blockade on the Gaza Strip.
Maher Muzher, a member of the Commission of the Great March of Return, a group consisting of various Palestinian factions in the Gaza Strip, said on Saturday that the organizers are planning mass demonstrations near the border with Israel on March 30 to commemorate the second anniversary of the weekly protests, which also coincides with Land Day.
Palestinians and Arab Israelis have been marking Land Day annually since 1976 to protest the Israeli government’s announcement of a plan to expropriate thousands of dunams of land in the Galilee for state purposes.
Recently, the organizers of the weekly protests decided to change the group’s name to The National Commission for the Great March of Return and Confronting the Deal, reference to US President Donald Trump’s recently unveiled plan for Mideast peace.
Muzher said that work has begun to prepare for the mass demonstrations. “We will continue to work towards mobilizing a large number of people to participate in the popular and peaceful protest against the occupation,” he said. “We want to send a message to the Israeli occupation that the Great March of Return is continuing in order to achieve our goals and express rejection of the Trump deal which aims to liquidate the Palestinian issue. Our people will win, and the deal will collapse.”
Khaled al-Batsh, a senior Palestinian Islamic Jihad official and member of the commission, said that the weekly protests will resume on March 30. “We have decided to resume the marches of return,” he said. “They will be an important tool to express our rejection of the Trump deal.”
Hamas, meanwhile, called on Palestinians to step up protests against the Trump plan. Hamas’s representative in Lebanon, Ahmed Abdel Hadi, urged Palestinians to launch more protests against the Trump plan in the coming days. “Our heroic people who foiled previous projects will, god willing, also thwart this malicious deal and expel the occupation,” he said in a statement. “We will return to our homes in beloved Palestine, and we will pray at the blessed Al-Aqsa Mosque. Jerusalem is ours, and it is the capital of our state. The whole land is ours, from the [Jordan] river to the [Mediterranean] sea.”