For third week in a row, organizers cancel Friday’s Gaza border protests

Palestinian authorities claim move unrelated to agreements with Israel; latest cancellation follows rocket fire from Strip, retaliatory airstrikes

A Palestinian uses a slingshot to throw back a tear gas canister at Israeli forces during a riot along the border with Israel, east of Bureij in the central Gaza Strip, on October 18, 2019. (Mahmud Hams/AFP)
A Palestinian uses a slingshot to throw back a tear gas canister at Israeli forces during a riot along the border with Israel, east of Bureij in the central Gaza Strip, on October 18, 2019. (Mahmud Hams/AFP)

For the third week in a row, organizers in the Gaza Strip have canceled Friday’s protest along the border with Israel.

According to the Kan public broadcaster, organizers insisted that the move “has nothing to do with the recent understanding reached with Israel,” and was taken to protect Palestinian protesters from Israeli troops at the border.

On Friday, a Lebanese newspaper reported that the committee responsible for organizing the protests was discussing whether to reduce the frequency of the demonstrations.

There is a discussion about “rolling back the marches to once a month or during national occasions,” a source in the committee told the pro-Hezbollah al-Akhbar outlet, noting a decision on the matter had not been made yet.

On November 13, in the wake of the 48-hour flare-up between Israel and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, the protests were canceled for only the third time since they started in late March 2018.

The move was seen as marking an attempt by Gaza’s Hamas rulers to avoid fresh confrontation with Israel.

Last week, the High National Commission for the March of Return and Breaking the Siege, which includes representatives of Gaza-based terror groups and political factions, said the protest was canceled to allow “the Palestinian people to continue to provide assistance to family members of martyrs and wounded persons and those whose homes were damaged in the Israeli aggression.”

The fighting earlier this month started after the Israel Defense Forces killed Baha Abu al-Ata, a top commander in the Islamic Jihad terror group.

During the escalation in tensions, the Al-Quds Brigades, Islamic Jihad’s armed wing, fired some 450 rockets and mortars at Israel, which responded with many retaliatory strikes in Gaza.

Islamic Jihad terrorists attend a memorial service for one of their number who was killed in clashes with Israel, November 15, 2019. (Hassan Jedi/Flash90)

The Hamas terror group’s Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, unlike in previous rounds of fighting, was widely believed to have stayed on the sidelines.

Three Israelis were wounded by rocket fire during the fighting, and dozens were injured when they fell while running to bomb shelters.

Thirty-four Palestinians in Gaza were killed in the confrontation and 109 were injured, according to the Hamas-run Health Ministry. At least 19 of them were members of terror groups and several were civilians, including eight minors.

The scrapped protest also comes amid renewed intermittent rocket fire from the Gaza Strip.

On Tuesday, terrorists fired two rockets at southern Israel as Palestinians marked a “day of rage” in response to a recent decision by the United States supporting Israeli settlements. One of the projectiles was shot down by soldiers operating the Iron Dome missile defense system. The second appeared to strike an open field in the Sha’ar Hanegev region of southern Israel.

The IDF launched airstrikes on Hamas targets in Gaza in response, the army said.

A day earlier, a mortar shell from Gaza landed in southern Israel.

Meanwhile, postal banks in Gaza on Wednesday started to distribute $7 million in small grants from Qatar to impoverished Palestinian families in the territory.

Since March 2018, Palestinians in Gaza have participated in the protests along the frontier on most Fridays, demanding Israel lift its restrictions on the movement of people and goods into and out of the coastal enclave and calling for the return of Palestinian refugees and their descendants to lands that are now a part of the Jewish state.

The protests have included frequent rioting with rocks, explosives and fire bombs hurled at IDF soldiers who respond with tear gas and live fire. At least 200 Palestinians have been killed, according to the health ministry.

Israeli officials maintain that the restrictions on movement are in place to prevent Hamas and other terrorist groups from smuggling weapons into the Strip. They also say that the return of Palestinian refugees and their descendants would destroy Israel’s Jewish character.

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