Gaza 'Great Return March' protests against Israel suspended for 3 months, says organisers

Gaza 'Great Return March' protests against Israel suspended for 3 months, says organisers
The Great March of Return protests will be suspended till the end of March, at which point they will resume on a monthly rather than weekly basis.
2 min read
26 December, 2019
A Palestinian protester uses a slingshot to hurl stones during the protest [Getty]
Weekly demonstrations along the Gaza-Israel border will be suspended for three months, protest organisers in the Palestinian enclave said Thursday.

Protests on Friday would be the last until March 30, 2020, Talal abu Zarifa, a member of the organising committee for the 'Great March of Return', told AFP.

The weekly Hamas-backed protests began in March 2018, and called for an end to Israel's 12-year-blockade of the Gaza Strip.

Protesters also demanded Palestinians be allowed to return to their ancestral homes inside the Jewish state, from which they were forcefully expelled in 1948 to clear the way for Israel's creation.

When they resume, the demonstrations will be monthly, rather than weekly, Zarifa said.

He did not give a specific reason for the decision, but the number of attendees has dwindled recently.

The Great Return Marches had been curtailed in previous months, due to a flare up of violence between Israel and Hamas' rival militant group, Islamic Jihad (PIJ).

The spate of violence saw the assasination of a high profile commander in Islamic Jihad, Baha Abu al-Ata. 34 Palestinians, including women and children, were also killed in the series of Israeli airstrikes.

Israel contends that any 'return' of Palestinians to their ancestral homes would mean an end to its status as a Jewish state. 

It accused the Gaza Strip's Islamist rulers Hamas of orchestrating the protests as cover for cross-border attacks.

But Hamas has over the last year gradually shaped an informal - if precarious and at times intermittent - truce with Israel, under which the Jewish state has slightly eased its blockade of the enclave in exchange for calm along the border. 

As part of the agreements, Israel has allowed Gulf state Qatar to bring millions of dollars worth of fuel and cash into Gaza every month, easing a humanitarian crisis.

Demonstrations have seen Palestinians throw stones and molotov cocktails at Israeli forces along the border, who have used live fire on protesters.

The protests initially attracted tens of thousands of people.

Read more: 'Blinding the truth': Israeli snipers target Gaza protesters in the eyes

At least 348 Palestinians have been killed in Gaza by Israeli fire since the marches began, the majority during the demonstrations, according to an AFP toll.

A further 7,800 people have been wounded by gunfire, according to the World Health Organization.

Israel and Hamas have fought three wars since 2008.

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