Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar joined mass protests along the Gaza border Friday, warning Israel that it should take heed of the tens of thousands of Palestinians demonstrating for the right to “return” to Israel.
In a fiery message, Sinwar called on those “besieging” the Gaza Strip to “recalculate” their position and absorb the message emanating from the protest.
If they are hungry, the people of the Gaza Strip will “eat the livers of those besieging” the coastal enclave, Sinwar warned, using an Arabic idiom that means to take revenge on someone.
Sinwar, the head of the Hamas terror group inside the enclave, appeared at a site of mass protests on the border between the Gaza Strip and Israel along with other Hamas leaders.
The protests, dubbed the March of Return, are expected to last for six weeks, culminating in a large demonstration in mid-May meant to coincide with the anniversary of Israel’s creation and the dedication of the US embassy in Jerusalem.
Thousands of Gazans are expected to camp in a tent city erected near the border fence for the duration, with demonstrations expected every Friday to protest for the “return” of Palestinian refugees and their descendants to lands now within Israel.
“The March of Return will continue,” Sinwar said. “It will not stop until we remove this transient border [between the Gaza Strip and Israel].”
Friday’s protests, he said, “mark the beginning of a new phase in the Palestinian national struggle on the road to liberation and return [of Palestinian refugees and their descendants to their former homes inside Israel].”
The “March of Return,” Sinwar added, “affirms that our people can’t give up one inch of the land of Palestine. The protests will continue until the Palestinians return to the lands they were expelled from 70 years ago.”
Earlier, Hamas politburo chief Ismail Haniyeh said from the protests that the demonstrations marked the beginning of the Palestinians’ return to “all of Palestine.”
“We are here to declare today that our people will not agree to keep the ‘right of return’ only as a slogan,” he said.
Haniyeh added that the so-called March of Return was also aimed at sending a message to US President Donald Trump to the effect that the Palestinians will not give up their right to Jerusalem.
At previous peace talks, the Palestinians have always demanded, along with sovereignty in the West Bank, Gaza, East Jerusalem and the Old City, a “right of return” to Israel for Palestinian refugees who left or were forced out of Israel when it was established. The Palestinians demand this right not only for those of the hundreds of thousands of refugees who are still alive — a figure estimated in the low tens of thousands — but also for their descendants, who number in the millions.
No Israeli government would ever be likely to accept this demand, since it would spell the end of Israel as a Jewish-majority state. Israel’s position is that Palestinian refugees and their descendants would become citizens of a Palestinian state at the culmination of the peace process, just as Jews who fled or were forced out of Middle Eastern countries by hostile governments became citizens of Israel.
Hamas, which seized control of Gaza in 2007, seeks to destroy Israel.