The head of the Hamas terror group on Wednesday appeared to dismiss recent unrest over economic conditions in the Gaza Strip and vowed major turnout at the upcoming one-year anniversary of weekly clashes along the border with Israel.
Gaza saw several days of internal protests last week in a rare public show of dissent in the Hamas-ruled territory as hundreds of Palestinians took to the streets to protest the economic woes of the cash-strapped territory.
Security forces loyal to Hamas cracked down harshly on the demonstrations, with rights groups saying they beat protesters and arrested hundreds. Though the protests have since petered out, organizers have called for fresh rallies in the coming days.
“Despite some of the events that have encircled it, mighty Gaza today affirmed it is able — faster than some think — to contain any development from outside the box and restore its compass toward the permanent, strategic line,” Ismail Haniyeh said.
Haniyeh was speaking at a mourning tent in Gaza for three Palestinians killed in the West Bank over the past day. One of the Palestinians was killed by IDF troops after killing a soldier and a rabbi in a terror attack Sunday, while the army said the other two were killed after attacking Israeli forces with bombs.
Haniyeh noted that tens of thousands of Palestinians had taken to the streets of the coastal enclave to praise the assailant in Sunday’s shooting attack, after he was killed.
Turning to ongoing protests along the border, Haniyeh claimed a million people would take part in clashes on March 30 to mark the one-year anniversary of the “March of Return.”
“The occupier has no choice but to acquiesce to the demands of our factions and people, first and foremost of which is breaking the siege on the way to ending the occupation and achieving return to all of Palestine’s land,” he said.
Since last March, the Gaza border has seen large-scale weekly clashes on Fridays, smaller protests along the northern Gaza border on Tuesdays, as well as periodic flareups between the Israeli military and Palestinian terror organizations. Protesters have been gathering along the frontier in often violent protests calling for Palestinian refugees and their descendants to be allowed to return to former homes now inside Israel.
Israel says that Hamas, an Islamist terror group that seeks to destroy Irael, has orchestrated the protests as cover for border attacks which have included bombs, grenades, Molotov cocktails, shootings and breaches of the boundary fence.
Agencies contributed to this report.