The Gaza National Committee for the Great March of Returns decided to suspend protests on its 51st Friday as Israeli warplanes carried out 100 strikes targeting sites across the besieged Gaza Strip. The Israeli strikes came hours after rockets were allegedly fired from Gaza near Tel Aviv, before dawn Friday.
The committee said in a brief statement that the rally for the 51st Friday was delayed in order to save the lives of demonstrators amid Israeli escalation, and in preparation for Land Day protests on March 30th marking the first anniversary of first protest in “The Great March of Return.”
Large explosions shook residential buildings throughout the Strip, which is home to two million Palestinians, early on Friday. While Palestinian witnesses said Israeli warplanes bombed Hamas security positions. Four Palestinians were wounded in the raids.
Khaled Barakat, 31, a mobile applications programmer, said that his 11-member family stayed awake the whole night due to fears of the “horrible bombing” in Tel-al-Hawa, southern Gaza city.
“My five and six-year-old daughters started screaming at 4:00 a.m.,” he said. The electricity had been cut and Barakat hurried to their bedroom to calm them down. “But another three explosions shook our bodies and I felt both their hearts beating on my lap.”
He went on: “I failed to convince them it was thunder.”
Daughter Maha, five years old, hugged Barakat and whispered: “It is a bombardment dad! Thunders don’t shake our apartment, as you said before.”
He went on, “That night could be repeated any time and no more lies will be believable for this generations of the wars.”
The late-night attack on Tel Aviv was the first time sirens had sounded in the city since the 2014 Gaza war between Hamas and Israel.
Hamas denied responsibility for the rocket salvo, which it said took place as its leaders met Egyptian delegates about efforts to secure a long-term ceasefire with Israel.
The Hamas administration said the attacks violated the “factional and national consensus” governing Gaza and vowed to “take measures” against those behind the rockets.
The rockets rattled Israeli nerves ahead of April 9 election in which Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is seeking a fiftingterm on the strength of his national security and diplomatic credentials.
Tensions have been escalating for the past year along the Israel-Gaza fence since Palestinians began their weekly protests, during which more than 250 Palestinians have been killed.
Protesters have demanded the right to return to their homes and villages in historical Palestine, and demanded an end to Israel’s 12-year blockade of the Gaza Strip, which has gutted the coastal enclave’s economy and deprived its roughly two million inhabitants of many basic commodities.
Meanwhile, on Thursday afternoon, several hours before the rocket launches, peaceful protests took place in several areas in Gaza featuring calls by the “Youth Movement” to improve living conditions.
Hundreds of civilians gathered in Jabalia refugee camp, Deir al-Balah refugee camp, and al-Bureij refugee camp, answering calls by the “Movement” published on social media to participate in peaceful protests of economic conditions under the slogan, “Let’s Build it- Revolution of the Hungry- Down to the High Prices.”
The security services dispersed those protests after shooting guns in the air and beating a few protesters. They also arrested some protesters, including organizers.
Jameel Sersawi, an unemployed man, said that protests were better directed at the fence, “as long as Israel is involved first and last in this unlivable conditions since we born.”
He went on, “I do not know how Israel thinks it is possible for people to forget their enemy even if some internal clashes might occur here or there over cost of living. All these dramas are written by Israel and it must understand that Gaza is not a cowshed, but human beings.”
A report by the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics showed that the unemployment rate in the Gaza Strip reached 52 percent in 2018 compared with 44 percent in 2017.
As the protest dispersed in Jabalia camp, Jameel told me that he will go home on foot to al-Naser neighborhood (nearly two miles away). “How logical is it that a 35-year-old man has not three Shekels ($1 US) to pay for a taxi? Things will explode more loudly than yesterday’s rockets.”
A local Gaza-based committee resisting the Israeli blockade warned in January that Israel’s embargo has led to a severe humanitarian deterioration in all aspects of life in the Gaza Strip.
The committee said that 90 percent of factories in the impoverished territory have been badly damaged due to the Israeli blockade and the growing rates of unemployment.
The committee also said the per-day income in Gaza is 2 U.S. dollars, and added that 85 percent of the population is living under the poverty line.