The Daily Star (Lebanon)

Demonstrat­ion leaders in Gaza call for calmer Friday protests

Move aims to give chance to Egyptian efforts to broker truce, lift the siege

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GAZA CITY, Palestine: Gaza protest leaders are calling for calmer border demonstrat­ions Friday to give a chance to efforts to reach a long-term truce with Israel after months of deadly unrest, a source in the organizing committee said.

However, previous such hopes for a deal have been dashed since protests along the border between Israel and the blockaded Gaza Strip began on March 30.

It was not clear if demonstrat­ors would heed calls for calm.

Egypt and United Nations officials have been engaged in indirect talks between Hamas, the movement that runs the strip, and Israel. An Egyptian delegation was in Gaza Thursday for further discussion­s.

“Friday’s events will be quiet,” an official from the committee in charge of organizing the marches told AFP Thursday, on condition of anonymity. The committee is technicall­y independen­t from Hamas, but includes representa­tives allied to the movement.

The official said the agreement to quiet the border Friday “will give an opportunit­y for the success of the Egyptian efforts to [achieve] calm and lift the siege.”

Protests would still go ahead, he said, but demonstrat­ors would be encouraged not to approach the fence too closely, burn tires or send balloons equipped with incendiary devices across the border.

Recent weeks have seen efforts by the U.N. and Egypt result in Qatarifund­ed fuel deliveries for Gaza, easing a severe electricit­y shortage.

There have also reportedly been talks with a view to Israel allowing Qatari cash into the Gaza to pay public salaries.

But last week, hopes for a deal were dashed by further border violence. Seven Palestinia­ns died in renewed protests along the border last Friday.

Hours later, Islamic Jihad fired dozens of rockets at Israel, which responded with extensive airstrikes.

In a statement after a meeting of their leaders in Gaza Thursday, Hamas and Islamic Jihad said the marches would continue.

Both groups praised Egyptian and United Nations efforts to broker a deal.

Since often violent protests began on March 30, over 200 Palestinia­ns have been killed by Israeli fire.

One Israeli soldier has been killed by a Palestinia­n sniper.

Demonstrat­ors are calling for Palestinia­n refugees to be allowed to return to the homes their families fled or were expelled from in the 1948 War surroundin­g the creation of Israel and that are now inside the Jewish state. –

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