Gaza protests cancelled for third week: statement

Gaza City (Palestinian Territories) (AFP) –


Palestinian protests along the Gaza-Israel border have been cancelled for the third week, organisers said on Thursday, amid declining turnout and fears of a fresh conflict in the Gaza Strip.

A statement by the organising committee said it had decided to postpone this Friday's marches to "avoid giving an opportunity to the Zionist enemy (Israel)" and due to "the very dangerous security conditions" after a deadly flareup in Gaza earlier this month.

It argued that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was looking for an opportunity to divert attention after being indicted on corruption charges and a new conflict with Gaza could help him do so.

The protests, which began in March 2018 and are backed by Gaza's Islamist rulers Hamas, initially attracted tens of thousands of people weekly, but numbers have declined dramatically.

The rallies were cancelled the two previous weeks after a flare-up between Israel and Islamic Jihad, a Hamas-allied militant group in Gaza.

Israel assassinated a senior Jihad leader in the strip on November 12, sparking a two-day flareup in which 35 Palestinians were killed. No Israelis died.

Since the protests began in March 2018 at least 346 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli fire in Gaza, more than half during the border demonstrations.

Protesters are calling for Israel to lift its decade-long blockade of Gaza as well as for a return to their ancestral homes now inside Israel.

Israel has fought three wars with Hamas and allied groups in Gaza since 2008.