Lull in Gaza border protests
GAZA: Young men filled sandbags to prepare for future protests at encampments along Gaza’s Israeli border yesterday, though tents were mostly empty as Palestinians joined Muslims around the world observing the daylight fast at the start of Ramadaan.
After the bloodiest day for Palestinians in years on Monday, when 60 were killed by Israeli gunfire during mass demonstrations that Israel said included attempts to breach its frontier fence, calm and a heatwave descended on the area.
Organisers of the protests that began on March 30 set today as a day to honour the dead and urged Gaza residents to flock again to the tent cities. But Ramadaan traditions, such as prayer, family visits and feasts, appeared to keep crowds away during the hot hours.
At one encampment, about 70 young men filled sandbags in anticipation of people returning. “We are making a sand barrier so people can feel a bit safer,” one of the men said.
Israel’s Intelligence Minister Israel Katz said on Wednesday that neighbouring Egypt had put pressure on Hamas, the armed Islamist faction that controls the Gaza Strip, to scale back the protests. However, Hamas denied it had come under Egyptian pressure to curb the protests, which provoked international condemnation of Israel’s use of deadly force in a bid to quell the unrest.
The “March of Return” demonstrations advocate the return of Palestinians to lands lost to Israel during its founding in 1948, and are also intended to draw attention to harsh conditions in Gaza, where the economy has collapsed under an Israeli-Egyptian blockade since Hamas took power in 2007. – Reuters