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More than 80 wounded in Gaza as protests enter 2nd year

"The GMoR protests will continue until the achievement of their main goal – the termination of the 12-year-old Israeli blockade imposed on Gaza" says Hamas spokesman

Amidst calls from the organisers to be completely peaceful, thousands of Palestinians from the Gaza Strip yesterday once again took part in the Great March of Return (GMoR) protests along the eastern fence of the besieged enclave.

However, the peaceful protesters were met with a brutal Israeli crackdown, as Israeli forces used live ammunition and a new kind of teargas. This left 83 protesters wounded, Gaza's Ministry of Health said, including one who sustained critical wounds to his face.

This is the first Friday after the one-million-man protest – which marked the first anniversary of the start of the Great March – in which peaceful protesters were met with a brutal Israeli crackdown, killing five protesters and wounding 315 others.

Speaking to MEMO, Hamas spokesman Abdul-Latif Al-Qanou said: "The GMoR protests will continue until the achievement of their main goal – the termination of the 12-year-old Israeli blockade imposed on Gaza."

Regarding the truce made during the past week, he said: "This is part of the deal reached between the Israeli occupation and the Palestinian resistance. We are waiting for more facilitations," noting that the Egyptian brokers are following up with the Israeli side.

READ: Gazans flock to Israel buffer zone for 52nd Friday

'Victory of Dignity'

This Friday was given the name "Victory and Dignity," as the National Committee for the Great March of Return and Breaking the Siege revealed that they "extracted a pledge" from Israel not to use live ammunition against the protesters.

Speaking to MEMO, Talal Abu-Zarifa, senior leader of the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP) and member of the National Committee, confirmed remarks given to the press that the Egyptians passed to the Palestinian side an Israeli pledge not to use live ammunition against the protesters.

"We agreed to stop using the harsh means of popular resistance such as flying incendiary balloons and sound explosions in order to give the Egyptian mediators space to follow up with the Israeli occupation regarding the implementation of the truce deal," he said.

"If the Israeli forces did not commit to their pledge and used live ammunition against the protesters, this means that it would not implement the other terms of the deal, which are more essential than those already implemented," he added

READ: Netanyahu: Killing 300 Gaza protesters was 'wise' decision

Diplomatic action

In the wake of the truce, a number of international diplomats visited the besieged Gaza Strip to evaluate the situation and study the development and investment environment.

On Wednesday, a huge delegation of European diplomats visited Gaza, including: The Italian consul to the Palestinian Authority (PA), along with an Italian delegation; the deputy Spanish consul, along with a Spanish delegation; director of the Norwegian embassy; the director of the UNRWA file in the Belgium embassy; the deputy Maltese ambassador; the head of Polish mission, along with a Polish delegation; director of the Irish consulate office and a Swiss ambassador. An UNRWA delegation and the deputy Canadian ambassador also visited Gaza.

According to Abu-Zarifa, these delegations visited the Gaza Strip to study the possibilities of international support for the enclave in the framework of the truce.

Meanwhile, the Egyptian and UN brokers visited the coastal enclave on Wednesday and met several factional officials, stressing that the deal is not "a replacement for national reconciliation".

READ: Ya'alon: Israel is weak in the face of Hamas

Deal of the century

Meanwhile member of Fatah and the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO)'s Executive Committees, Azzam Al-Ahmad, accused Hamas of running after the US Administration in order to be accepted as part of the so-called "deal of the century".

Speaking to Palestine Radio, he said "Hamas has been working hard to be part of the deal of the century," adding that "the truce deal is subject to experiment observations and the US will decide whether to accept it or not".

To stop this, he said, "Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas is doing his best to undermine any attempt that would retain the national division for ever".

He added: "Abbas will undermine any efforts leading to the establishment of a small state in the Gaza Strip along with a permanent autonomous state in the occupied West Bank."

READ: Trump to reveal deal of the century on 71st anniversary of Palestine Nakba

Three tracks

Chief of Hamas' Political Bureau, Ismail Haniyeh, denied Al-Ahmad's accusations and stressed that the truce with Israel "does not have any political price".

While addressing worshippers during Friday prayers in Salim Abu-Musallam Mosque in the northern Gaza city of Beit Lahiya, Haniyeh said: "The truce deal meets only the humanitarian needs of the Palestinians in Gaza."

Abu-Zarifa confirmed this to MEMO and stressed that "there is a consensus among all the Palestinian factions in Gaza that this deal is related only to the humanitarian crisis in Gaza".

He stressed that the truce does not have any relationship with the "deal of the century". "It is absolutely based on national agendas," he said.

In order to force Israel to implement all the terms of the deal, Haniyeh said: "We are taking three tracks to guarantee the Israeli commitment to the deal. We will continue protesting each Friday, we are giving the chance for the mediators to follow up and evaluate the Israeli pledges and we [Hamas] will not forget that we are not alone on the stage."

READ: Netanyahu: I offered Gaza to many Arab leaders, they refused

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.

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