Gaza Protest Organizers Freeze Nighttime Riots, Firebomb Launches

Organizing committee behind weekly border protests says it wishes to support mediation efforts led by Egypt for long-term calm with Israel

Palestinian protesters are seen demonstrating on the Gazan side of the border to mark the first anniversary of the 'March of Return' protests, Nahal Oz, Israel, March 30, 2019.
AFP

The organizing committee behind the weekly protests along Gaza's border with Israel is expected to freeze some of its activities and work to prevent mass gatherings near the border during Friday's march, as Egypt negotiates a long-term calm.

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The Great March of Return's nighttime activity is to be put on hold, as well as any launches of airborne firebombs.The night skirmishes, known as “nighttime confusion,” are more violent than the daytime protests, involving firebombs and laser lights directed at Israeli forces along the fence.

Committee member Talal Abu Zarifa told Haaretz that organizers decided to support the Egyptian mediation efforts for implementing understandings between Israel and Hamas. "We've made it clear on several occasions that the intensity of the protest will depend on the implementation" of the agreements, which include easing some of the restrictions Israel imposes on Gaza, he said.

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File photo: Palestinian protesters wave national flags during a demonstration near the border with Israel, east of Gaza City, March 30, 2019.
Anas Baba/AFP

The marches are planned to take place as usual, but Abu Zarifa explained that the organizing committee will work to prevent clashes along the border. "We have no interest in young men coming close to the fence to be killed by sniper bullets," he said. "We want to secure achievements that will cost as little blood and victims as possible, and so as long as there's progress in the negotiations and implementation on the ground, we have no interest in escalation."

Israel expanded the approved fishing zone for Gazans to 15 nautical miles (equivalent to 28.8 kilometers from the shoreline) on Monday, the military said. This is the maximum fishing range allowed in the Gaza Strip since the signing of the Oslo Accords in 1993. Fishermen in Gaza say the 15-mile range is partial, only applying to waters off the southern part of the Strip.

Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh said his organization and other factions in Gaza are following closely the implementation of understandings. "The Palestinians people must feel actions on the ground, not only hear declarations," he added, saying international mediation continues.

A member of Hamas' political wing in Gaza, Essam Aldalis, said the implementation of some of Israel's commitments, which are expected to take longer than others, would be delayed until after its general election on Wednesday.

Gazans now await improvements to power supply, as well expanding of exports, allowing more products into the Strip and a plan to reduce unemployment. Additional plans, including connecting Gaza's power station to supply of gas and adding more power lines, are only expected to be implemented in at least six months.