The organizing committee for the March of Return in Gaza announced Wednesday that the marches along the border fence with Israel will continue this weekend, despite the positive diplomatic developments and improved conditions in the Strip in recent days.
A leading activist told Haaretz that the marches will continue until the blockade on Gaza is totally removed, but that the level of violence will be limited and the marchers will not approach the fence, based on decisions that had already been made last week.
This approach was backed by Ibrahim al-Madhoun, a leading Hamas political analyst in Gaza. “The continuation of the marches of return while increasing the number of participants in the next few weeks is the most effective weapon we have to force the occupation to lift the blockade, and bring about the success of the Egyptian effort to achieve this goal. That’s why we need quiet marches that prove that we are a people that desires life and loves to live,” Madhoun wrote Wednesday on a Hamas-affiliated website.
Sources in Gaza made it clear, however, that while the recent improvements in the electricity supply, the payment of salaries to Hamas officials and the launching of a project to create jobs are welcome steps, they aren’t elements that could lead to a substantive change in the lives and future prospects of Gazans. “Change requires bringing raw materials to the various factories and production lines as well as increasing exports, along with the construction of large projects that will provide jobs for tens of thousands. Then we can talk about real change,” a Hamas activist said.
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On Wednesday the Gazan Finance Ministry paid partial salaries to Hamas officials in the Gaza Strip. On Tuesday, Gazan Finance Ministry director-general Yusuf Al-Kayali said the ministry would pay 60 percent of the July salary to Hamas employees. According to reports in Gaza, the payment was made in connection with the negotiations to establish calm in the region, involving Egypt, Qatar and United Nations’ envoy to the Middle East Nickolay Mladenov, with Qatar footing the bill for the wages.
Hamas and the Palestinian factions in Gaza celebrated what they described as the triumph of the March of Return and the sacrifice of Gaza’s residents to get the blockade lifted. Statements issued emphasized that the eased conditions were the result of the Palestinian struggle, and they were not achieved in return for a diplomatic concession to Israel or any other country. “The achievements reinforce the steadfastness of the Palestinian people seeking to achieve their full rights that were taken from them because of the siege,” they wrote.
At the same time, the director-general of Gaza’s Welfare Ministry, Yusuf Ibrahim, said his ministry would pay 700 shekels ($191) to every family whose child was killed in the demonstrations near the border fence. A payment of $100 will be given to an additional 50,000 families in the Strip. Ibrahim also presented his job-creation plan that will help some 10,000 skilled workers in the Strip. The Qatari committee for the rehabilitation of the Strip said its envoy to Gaza, Mohammad al-Amadi, would come to Gaza shortly to announce new infrastructure and humanitarian aid projects.
These steps come after several days in which the hours of electricity were extended because of the diesel fuel Qatar has supplied to the Gazan power station. After details of the evolving agreement with Israel were published in the Al-Ahkbar newspaper, Israel announced it would allow Gazan fishermen to go further out from shore than they can now, while Hamas and the Palestinian factions committed to reducing the violence during the marches along the border fence.