Israeli Army Prepares for Mass Gaza Protests on First Friday of Ramadan

After 60 killed in Monday's large demonstrations, Gazans to march under the slogan 'Friday for the martyrs and wounded'

Israeli soldiers patrol on the Israeli side of the border between Israel and Gaza, May 14, 2018
\ AMIR COHEN/ REUTERS

The March of Return organizing committee in the Gaza Strip has called on Gazans to come out en masses for marches on Friday, the first of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, under the slogan “Friday for the martyrs and the wounded.”

The Israel Defense Forces is preparing for marches and demonstrations along the Gaza-Israel border. After heavy clashes on Monday in which at least 60 Palestinians were killed, it’s expected that Friday’s demonstrations will be smaller, more along the lines of previous weeks.

According to the committee, during Ramadan, which began this week, there will be various activities at gathering points using a schedule that takes the holiday and its daily fast into account. The committee said that the next mass march after this week would be on June 5, the anniversary of the "naksa," as Palestinians refer to the Six Day War.

Hamas meanwhile announced that 500 people wounded in the demonstrations over the past several weeks received $200 each in financial aid. The others would receive the aid over the next few days, the group said.

On Thursday, the Kerem Shalom crossing between Israel and Gaza resumed operations, with 600 trucks bringing in goods. The streaming of diesel fuel also resumed, after repairs were made to the pipeline that had been damaged by rioters.

The military has started to reduce its forces in the south and in the West Bank, though there are still considerable reinforcements deployed compared to normal. The security establishment is actually more concerned about clashes occurring in the West Bank and East Jerusalem on the first Friday of Ramadan. In Gaza, it believes, demonstrations will be less intense, as it Hamas appears to be trying to restore calm.

Gazans have protested at the border fence each Friday since late March with the goal of a massive climactic rally on May 15, Nakba Day. After the bloodshed on Monday, however, the protests on Nakba Day were relatively subdued. Some 4,000 demonstrators arrived at the fence, compared with the tens of thousands who protested there the day before.

The IDF said at least 24 of the 60 people killed on Monday were militants, mostly belonging Hamas and Islamic Jihad, while on Wednesday a senior Hamas official said 50 of those killed were members of the organization.