Hamas: Gaza protests show Trump that Jerusalem decision will never be accepted
AP Photo/Adel Hana
Hamas warned on Friday that the thousands of Palestinians confronting the Israeli military along Gaza's border with Israel are sending a message to US President Donald Trump that Palestinians will never accept his recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital or support any "concession" in Washington's mooted peace plan.
A united front of Palestinian factions in Gaza say the mass protests (LIVE BLOG) -- dubbed the 'Great March of Return' -- are merely the starting gun for six weeks of demonstrations, leading up to the inauguration of the new US embassy in Jerusalem on Israel's Independence Day.
The Israeli military said 20,000 Palestinians were taking part in the rallies across the coastal enclave, with at least seven shot dead by Israeli fire and hundreds injured, according to Palestinian health sources.
The march "proves to US President Donald Trump, his [peace] deal and everyone who stands with it that there will be no concession on Jerusalem, no alternative to Palestine and no solution but to return," Hamas chief Ismail Haniyeh said as he visited the teeming tent camps.
Hamas, an Islamist group that rules Gaza with an iron first, stakes out a maximalist position on the decades-long Israeli-Palestinian conflict, ruling out any compromise with "illegitimate" Israel.
Trump's policy switch in December upended decades of US policy on Jerusalem and threw a new spanner into the wheels of the already bogged down peace process.
The Western-backed Palestinian Authority (PA) broke off contact with a coterie of White House advisers who are thrashing out a new US-led path to resuming peace negotiations.
"The world should embrace the message of our Palestinian people, indicating that our people will not accept the continuation of the siege imposed on it," the leader of Hamas in Gaza, Yahya Sinwar, said on his own tour.
Protests along the border are common, often culminating in young Palestinian men throwing stones at Israeli soldiers who respond with tear gas, and rubber and live bullets.
The March of Return protest is different because Hamas has repeatedly said it will be peaceful and that it is intended to include families with women and children camping near the border for weeks.
For many of the thousands, the events are not only a poke in the eye of the Israeli troops watching warily from across the heavily fortified border fence, but a rally with historical dimensions.
Protesters were demanding hundreds of thousands of Palestinian refugees who fled or were expelled during the war surrounding Israel's creation in 1948 be allowed to return.
Cultural events are planned in the larger communal tents, including traditional Palestinian dabke dancing, while tens of thousands of meals will be handed out on Friday, organizers said.
A young couple were married near one of the camps on Thursday evening.
Saeed Juniya had erected a small tent a few hundred meters from the border fence east of Gaza City, where he was accompanied by his wife and children.
"We are determined and not scared as we are not doing something wrong. The people are demanding their land and to return to their country," he said.
Organizers say the camps will remain in place until May 15 when Palestinians commemorate the Nakba, or "catastrophe", of the 1948 creation of Israel with the exodus of more than 700,000 Palestinians.
The launch of the protests also comes as Palestinians mark Land Day, commemorating the killing of six unarmed Arab protesters in Israel in 1976.
Before the protestors and troops assembled, both sides sent a flurry of competing messages to the outside world in anticipation of close international scrutiny.
The Secretary-General of the Palestinian National Initiative Movement "called on all international institutions and human rights organizations to exert immediate pressure on the Israeli government and its army to deter them from committing crimes and shooting at Palestinian demonstrators participating in the popular resistance."
Israel's ambassador to the United Nations, Danny Danon, on Thursday labelled the protest an "organised planned provocation" and reiterated "Israel's right to defend its sovereignty and protect its citizens."
The Israeli foreign ministry in Jerusalem sent a similar message.
"Israel has the full right to defend its borders, to protect its citizens and to prevent illegal infiltration into its sovereign territory. Responsibility for any clashes that may arise will thus lie solely with Hamas."
According to the United Nations, some 1.3 million of Gaza's two million residents are refugees or their descendants and the protest is calling for them to be allowed to return to land that is now Israel.
AFP contributed to this report.
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but thanks for giving Israel the opportunity to rid the planet of fakestinian filth! live rounds only, please!!!