GAZA – Thousands of Palestinians began to gather near the Gaza-Israel border on Saturday to mark the Great March of Return’s first anniversary while the Israeli army reinforced its presence in case clashes broke out.
From early on the morning, food stalls were set up with chairs under canopies and street vendors tried to evoke the festive atmosphere in which the protesters kicked off one year ago and have been repeated every Friday to demand Palestinians’ right to return to their ancestral land and an end to the blockade Israel has imposed on the strip since 2007, when Hamas seized control of the enclave.
The rally organizers decided to put the gathering points 700 meters away from the border with Israel with the aim of avoiding clashes and commemorating the occasion peacefully, they said.
Palestinians called Saturday’s rally “march of million” and it was expected to be huge given that it coincides with what Palestinians call Earth Day, which commemorates the six civilians who were killed in 1976 during a rally they staged to protest Israel’s seizure of Palestinian-owned lands in Galilee.
This morning, dozens of ambulances were mobilized near field hospitals that have been set up near all the five points of the protests, to where a lot of people are expected to go after midday prayers.
The hospitals and international organizations that support the health system have emptied regular patient centers to handle a possible increase in the number of injured people.
Organizers also called for a general strike, with all government offices, public institutions, schools and shops being closed.
Since the beginning of the marches, at least 271 Palestinians were fatally shot by Israel military members, including 195 in rallies and 76 in clashes, according to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UCHA).
Two Israeli soldiers died; one during rallies and the other during an undercover operation.
An Egyptian delegation, which mediates between Israel and the Palestinian militia to avoid a new outbreak of violence, was at the strip on Friday in a bid to obtain the commitment of both parties not to escalate the situation.
The UN humanitarian coordinator for the occupied Palestinian territory, Jamie McGoldrick, traveled to the strip to monitor the situation and confirmed to EFE that he is prepared for all scenarios.