Both Israel and the Palestinians are preparing for massive demonstrations in the Gaza Strip Friday along the border with Israel. They are expected to be of similar size and force as those of May 14, when around 60 Palestinians were shot dead by Israeli forces.
Hamas has urged Palestinians in the West Bank to join in the “march of return” by heading to Jerusalem to pray at Al-Aqsa Mosque or at Israeli checkpoints along the way. Hamas controls the Gaza Strip, but in the West Bank the Palestinian Authority leadership is dominated by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah organization.
The army plans to deploy as it has for the previous demonstrations along the border in recent weeks, with snipers. It said it has received warnings about possible efforts to target soldiers with gunfire or explosives.
The committee organizing the weekly marches said it plans to continue them, despite the large number of Palestinian casualties during the 11 previous demonstrations. It said the goal is to tell the world that Palestinians continue to insist on their rights, including the right of return.
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Gazans who have been flying burning kites over the border are also hard at work, and plan to send dozens of them into Israel Friday.
“We aren’t connected to any organization,” said one of the kite fliers. “The idea began when we saw children with kites with Palestinian flags at the first march. We saw that a kite flies quickly and enters Israel territory, and then we thought of tying flammable material or something burning to it.”
“We’re not terrorists,” he insisted. ”We’re a generation with no hope and no horizon that lives under a suffocating siege, and that’s the message we’re trying to send the world. In Israel, they cry over the fields and forests that burned up. What about us, who are dying every day?
“Personally, I’ve gone to the fence several times, and it’s clear it’s a matter of time until I get a bullet in the head or until they amputate my leg because of leg wounds. So I’d rather fly a kite and participate in the protest than die.”
He said that had Hamas or any other Palestinian organization been supporting the fire kites, he and his companions wouldn’t have such trouble obtaining the materials for them.
“Each kite costs almost five shekels [$1.40],” he explained. “In Gazan terms, that’s money if you’re talking about quantity. Therefore, creativity leads us to use anything at hand — discarded cardboard and plastic or anything that can be used to build a kite, which is so simple but is challenging the strongest army in the Middle East.”
The army dropped leaflets on the Gaza Strip Thursday morning, warning residents not to approach the fence or try to attack Israelis.
“Residents of the Gaza Strip! Greetings, and may Ramadan bring you blessings,” the leaflets said.” A wise man considers the results of his actions in advance and chooses the action whose benefits outweigh the costs. If you consider this with regard to approaching or crossing the fence, you’ll reach the conclusion that this act isn’t worthwhile and is even harmful.”
The leaflets also urged Gazans “not to let Hamas turn you into a tool to serve its narrow interests. Behind these interests stands Shi’ite Iran, whose goal is to inflame the region for the sake of its religious and ethnic interests. You shouldn’t let Hamas turn you into its hostages, so that it can reap political capital at the expense of the welfare and future of Gazans in general, and young Gazans in particular. To avoid harmful results, we urge you not to take part in demonstrations and anarchy and not to put yourself in danger.”