Hamas and Islamic Jihad crowed that mass protests along the Gaza border Friday that Palestinian officials said left 15 dead and over 1,400 more injured in clashes with IDF troops had managed to thwart US President Donald Trump’s “deal of the century.”
The two terror groups, who had played a major role in the organization of Friday’s mass protests, urged Palestinians to continue the large demonstrations, which are expected to last six weeks and culminate in mid-May, when the US is slated to move its embassy to Jerusalem.
Khaled al Batsh, a senior Islamic Jihad official who heads the committee responsible for organizing the mass protests, announced on Friday night the end of day one of the “March of Return.”
He said that the Palestinian protests have “buried forever Trump’s suspicious deal,” a reference to Trump’s yet-to-be-announced plan for an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal.
Batsh said the Palestinians “are determined to thwart all plans aimed at liquidating” the Palestinian cause.
Hamas, an Islamist terror group that seeks to destroy Israel, said in a statement late Friday that the Palestinians have “practically foiled the deal of the century and dealt a severe blow to Trump and his administration.”
Hamas spokesperson Fawzi Barhoum said that Friday’s events showed that Israel’s attempts to “change the reality” have failed.
Batsh said that Saturday will be dedicated to “showing support for the families of the martyrs and visiting those who were injured” during Friday’s protests.
“Today was just the beginning,” Batsh said during a press conference in Gaza City. “We will continue to stage sit-in strikes and demonstrations.”
Urging Palestinians to continue the protests, Batsh called on the United Nations, the Arab League and international parties to launch an inquiry into Israeli “crimes” against Palestinians who were demonstrating “peacefully” on Friday.
The protests had been billed as peaceful, but quickly devolved into deadly clashes, with Israeli troops firing on Palestinians who hurled stones and firebombs at them or tried to breach the border fence. Some 30,000 protesters took part, according to the IDF.
The IDF spokesman Ronen Manelis said the IDF faced “a violent, terrorist demonstration at six points” along the fence. He said the IDF used “pinpoint fire” wherever there were attempts to breach or damage the security fence. “All the fatalities were aged 18-30, several of the fatalities were known to us, and at least two of them were members of Hamas commando forces,” he said in a late afternoon statement.
The army accused the terror groups of using the protests as cover to carry out attacks, either by breaching the fence or planting bombs on the border.
Israeli troops have remained deployed along the border amid fears violence could resume.