Friday will mark the first anniversary of the Hamas-led weekly Gaza border riots and attacks, the so-called “March of Return.” The IDF is on high alert and has streamed heavy enforcements to the border, including an armored division and artillery, ahead of an expected extremely violent and possibly bloody weekend.
Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh called on Wednesday for a million-person march on Israel’s border.
“I urge our Palestinian people in Gaza, the occupied West Bank, and aboard to march on Palestinian Land Day and take part in One-Million Demonstration of Land and Return next week,” Haniyeh said in a press release.
Israel has contacted Hamas and has offered the terror group a package of concessions in return for curbing the violence on the border, but Hamas is refusing to commit itself to a restriction of the protests and is trying to blackmail Israel.
Hamas and the other Gazan factions are calling for a mass mobilization to the border and are encouraging the public to take part in the demonstrations.
Schools in Gaza will be closed on Friday to allow students to participate in events marking the so-called “March of the Million.”
According to reports in the Arabic media, Israel presented Hamas with a formula for the calming of the situation through an Egyptian delegation that is mediating between the two sides.
According to the reports, Israel is willing to expand the range of the fishing zone off Gaza’s coast, has offered to repair the electricity lines running into the Strip, will allow the expanded entry of goods and money into the Gaza Strip and even the export of agricultural produce, if Hamas agrees to keep the rioters 300 meters away from the border fence.
The Egyptian delegation has stayed in the Gaza Strip during the past two days following the escalation set off by a Hamas rocket attack on the Sharon region earlier this week, and arrived is in Israel on Thursday and may return to the Gaza Strip tonight. Hamas’ response may be presented to Israel this evening.
A deputy UN envoy is in the Gaza Strip to continue the talks.
Hamas did not confirm that understandings have been reached with Israel, but various media outlets in the Gaza Strip and official spokesmen have provided details about the contacts with the Egyptian delegation.
In the meantime, some protest organizers have called on the Arab public to protest in “peaceful ways.” It should be noted that the arson balloons, the burning of tires and other less lethal acts of violence are perceived by Hamas as a “peaceful” form of protest.
While Hamas has not announced that it has accepted the proposal, the supreme committee that is organizing the marches has signaled that the demonstrations will be nonviolent. The committee held a press conference this morning and called for nonviolent action.
Hamas has not backed away from its demands to ease the blockade on the Strip and has further demanded that Israel be the first to bring about a significant change in the closure of the Gaza Strip.
However, the attack attributed to Israel on Iranian targets in Syria on Wednesday night may have an impact on the events expected over the weekend.
The Islamic Jihad, acting on orders from Tehran, may attack Israel from Gaza in revenge for Israel’s strike in Syria if understandings are not agreed upon between Israel and Hamas, which controls the Strip and is responsible for everything that happens inside it.