For first time in nearly a year, Hamas calls off weekly Gaza border protest

Cancellation of March of Return protest comes a day after 2 rockets were fired from Strip at Tel Aviv, followed by Israeli retaliation and more rocket fire at Israeli border areas

An Israeli Merkava battle tank on the border with the Gaza Strip on March 15, 2019. (Jack Guez/AFP)
An Israeli Merkava battle tank on the border with the Gaza Strip on March 15, 2019. (Jack Guez/AFP)

Weekly Hamas-spurred protests along the Gaza-Israel border were called off Friday after a serious escalation overnight between Palestinian terrorists and Israel, organizers announced, the first time they have not been held in almost a year.

“In keeping with the public interest, the commission has decided to exceptionally postpone its activities scheduled for this day,” the body which organizes the protests said in a statement.

Protests will resume in the coming weeks, with particular preparation for the one-year anniversary of their beginning on March 30, it said.

The cancellation, the first of its kind in a year, came after two rockets were fired from Gaza at Tel Aviv late Thursday — the first such attack since 2014. Israel said its aircraft struck more than 100 Hamas targets in Gaza overnight in response, and Gaza terrorist fired nine more rockets at Israeli border areas.

The sky above buildings in the Gaza Strip glows orange during an Israeli air strike in Gaza City early on March 15, 2019 after 2 missiles were fired at Tel Aviv. (Mahmud Hams/AFP)

An official from the organizing committee, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the protests were delayed “to protect our people due to the escalation and the Israeli aggression.”

The protests have frequently degenerated into mass riots along the fence, throwing rocks, fire bombs and hand-grenades at Israeli troops, burning tires and trying to breach the security fence. Israeli soldiers usually respond with tear gas and, in some cases, live fire.

Israel has accused Hamas, the terror organization that rules the Strip, of orchestrating the clashes and using them as cover to breach the border fence and carry out attacks.

Recent weeks have seen a dramatic increase in the level of violence along the Gaza border, with near nightly riots and a return of airborne arson attacks, which had waned in light of a de facto ceasefire agreement between Israel and Hamas.

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