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
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. –