Hamas and other Palestinian organizations plan to escalate friction between the Palestinian population and Israeli soldiers over the next few weeks as part of the run-up to Nakba Day, commemorated every year on May 15.
The Nakba, or “catastrophe,” is the Palestinians’ term for the flight or expulsion of more than 700,000 Arabs during the Israeli War of Independence.
This past Friday, after Friday prayers, clashes broke out along the Gaza border and at several places in the West Bank, including the Bethlehem checkpoint, the Jericho area and Hebron. In Gaza, 25 Palestinians were lightly to moderately wounded by Israeli gunfire.
Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman warned over the weekend of the possibility of another war in Gaza and accused Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas of trying to foment one.
“The situation is tense; we’re witnessing an attempt by Abu Mazen to worsen the situation and stoke a conflict between Hamas and Israel,” he told Israel Television News, using Abbas’ nickname. “It’s clear that Abu Mazen is going to completely end funding for the Gaza Strip ... and the moment he halts humanitarian payments, that’s what will happen.”
Hamas, Islamic Jihad and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine announced over the weekend that they are preparing a series of mass marches along the border fence between Gaza and Israel. The marches will begin on March 30, the day Israeli Arabs commemorate as Land Day, and climax on May 15, when Palestinians mark the 70th anniversary of the Nakba.
The organizations also plan to hold similar marches in the West Bank, inside Israel and in Palestinian communities worldwide. “The goal isn’t to turn the participants into sitting ducks, but we want to send our message to the entire world,” one organizer of the marches in Gaza said.
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Before Friday’s clashes, Hamas had urged residents of both the West Bank and Gaza to go to checkpoints and other places where they were likely to encounter Israelis after Friday prayers and clash with soldiers and settlers. In this way, they would mark the 100th day since U.S. President Donald Trump recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
“We must keep the Palestinian street at a boil until Trump’s decision is thwarted and the plots against the Palestinian people are foiled,” the organization said in a statement.