Organizers Suspend Gaza Border Protest, Signaling Exploration of Long-term Truce

Weekly demonstrations have been taking place since March 2018, but will now stop until April and resumed on a monthly basis only

Palestinian protesters run from tear gas fired by Israeli forces amid clashes during a demonstration along the border with Israel east in the Gaza Strip on December 6, 2019.
MAHMUD HAMS/AFP

Weekly Gaza protests on Israel's border that have been taking place for neraly two years will be suspended until the end of March 2020, organizers announced Thursday, signaling possible movement toward a long-term truce between Palestinian organization in the Strip and Israeli force.

The committee behind the Great March of Return said it would resume Friday protests on the border fence in April, but on a monthly basis only.

The demonstrations began in March 2018 on Land Day, when Paletinians commemorate the shooting death by Israeli forces in 1976 of six Arabs who were protesting the expropriation of Arab-owned land in northern Israel to build Jewish communities.

In November, the organizing committee canceled the protests for three weeks in a row. Denying media reports, it insisted the decision was not a result of negotiations with Israel, but rather of tension along the border amid a violent flare-up between Israel and Palestinian armed groups.

In clashes between protesters and Israeli military forces over the past year and a half, hundreds of Palestinians have been killed and thousands more wounded, and two Israeli soldiers have been killed.

In recent months, Hamas has been debating whether to continue the weekly demonstrations, considering their effect and the burden the many wounded create on Gaza's frail health system.

Israel's handling of the protests were cited last week by International Criminal Court Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda as one of the to assume a basis to launch an investigation against it, pending the court's ruling on whether its jurisdiction extends to the Palestinians territories.

In her statement, Bensouda wrote that there was reason to investigate "crimes allegedly committed in relation to the use by members of the IDF of non-lethal and lethal means against persons participating in demonstrations beginning in March 2018 near the border fence between the Gaza Strip and Israel, which reportedly resulted in the killing of over 200 individuals, including over 40 children, and the wounding of thousands of others."