Tens of Thousands of Palestinians Prepare for Week Two of Protests at Gaza Border

Protest organizers direct demonstrators to steer clear of border fence so as 'not to give soldiers any excuse to shoot' after last week's casualties ■ Death toll from last week's border clashes rises to 19

Palestinian protesters carrying an injured man during clashes with Israeli forces along the border, east of Gaza City.
MOHAMMED ABED/AFP

Preparations are underway for renewed protests near the Gaza Strip border fence this weekend, protest organizers said in a statement Tuesday.

The various Palestinian factions are once again planning to enlist tens of thousands of people of all ages to come to the tent camp near the fence, as they did last weekend. According to the statement, clear directives were given to all participants to maintain the principle said to have been set last week of a nonviolent march as part of a popular uprising against the occupation and blockade of Gaza.

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“We welcome all participants of all factions and appreciate their work for the success of this action that embarrassed Israel throughout the world. Israel continues with all its might and by all means including its collaborators to spoil the event and lead to a frontal clash to defend itself to the international community. And so we have made sure to convey messages to the entire Palestinian public in the Gaza Strip and all who intend on participating not to break the rules.”

The statement exhorted participants not to approach the fence and “to keep dozens of meters away so as not to give the soldiers any excuse to shoot at the participants.”

Earlier Tuesday, a 25-year-old Palestinian was shot and killed in the central Gaza Strip, the Palestinian Health Ministry said, bringing the number of people killed in demonstrations near the border fence to 17, the ministry said. The ministry's figure, however, does not include the two Palestinians killed during a shootout on the border with Israeli soldiers. Israel is currently holding their bodies.

The man, who was identified as Ahmed Omar Arfa from the city of Deir al-Balah, was wounded in the chest by live fire near the border fence, just east of the refugee camp of Bureij. Three other men were moderately injured.  

The protests’ organizing committee said Friday’s actions and those during the week so far had brought international interest in the march and backing for its messages, unlike the effect of the Israeli claims, which the committee said had fallen on deaf ears.

The committee said the march had to take place according to a clear and well-organized plan so participants would not suffer burnout and would maintain a presence for the entire six weeks up to Nakba Day on May 15, and for the sake of gaining support in the Arab world and internationally. Such support could already be seen in many of the world’s capitals, the committee said, and solidarity rallies had already been scheduled in many Arab countries and in Europe.

Meanwhile, social media in the Gaza Strip have posted photographs of young men collecting tires to burn on this weekend near the fence, so the resulting thick smoke would impede Israeli sharpshooters and other soldiers. Some photos also showed people holding mirrors that they were apparently planning to use to blind the soldiers. A member of the organizing committee said these actions were taken on the initiative of young people themselves and had not been organized or planned, and that a wedding had been held at the tent camp to instill an atmosphere of celebration and optimism.

Meanwhile, the Arab League held a special session Tuesday of its permanent representatives at the league’s headquarters in Cairo, and adopted a resolution to support the Palestinian Authority’s demand for an investigation into what it called Israeli war crimes in the shooting of protesters last weekend. The league said the Arab countries support the establishment of an international commission to investigate the firing by Israelis on protesters.

The deaths of Palestinian protesters has evoked criticism from Israeli officials, the Palestinian Authority and others worldwide. UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres called on Saturday for the launching of a transparent investigation into the death of Palestinians in protests.

Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah has called on the international community to “investigate Israel over the crimes it committed against the Palestinian people.”