Hamas head gives support for protesters to breach Gaza fence

Gaza City (Palestinian Territories) (AFP) –


A senior Hamas official signalled support Thursday for thousands of Palestinians to breach the border fence from Gaza into Israel at protests to coincide with next week's US embassy move to Jerusalem.

In his first major briefing to international media since becoming Gaza head of the Islamist group in 2017, Yahya Sinwar implied he would like to see thousands of Palestinians crossing into Israel as part of more than a month of protests.

Asked what he wanted to see from protests on Monday and Tuesday, Sinwar pointed out Israel has never specifically defined its borders.

"What's the problem with hundreds of thousands breaking through a fence that is not a border?"

Sinwar said he hoped Israel would not shoot at what he called "peaceful" protests.

Fifty-two Palestinians have been killed by Israeli fire since protests and clashes began on March 30 calling for Palestinian refugees to be able to return to their former homes in what is now Israel.

The majority of those killed were shot during protests and clashes near the border.

Israel says it only opens fire when necessary to stop infiltrations, attacks and damage to the border fence, while accusing Hamas of seeking to use the protests as cover to carry out violence.

Palestinians say protesters are being shot while posing no threat to soldiers and there have been international calls for an independent investigation.

Thousands are expected to gather along the border on Monday, which coincides with the controversial opening of the US embassy in Jerusalem.

There are fears protesters could try and breach the fence, leading to more bloodshed.

Palestinians, who also consider Jerusalem their capital, reacted furiously to President Donald Trump's December 6 announcement that he would move the US embassy from Tel Aviv to the divided holy city, with widespread street protests.

Hamas has controlled Gaza since forcing out the internationally recognised Palestinian government in 2007.

Hamas, which has fought three wars with Israel since 2008, is considered a terrorist organisation by the Jewish state, the United States and the European Union.