Hamas leader says next Gaza protest will be 'decisive'
The Gaza leader of Hamas said on Wednesday that a mass protest on the Israeli border will be "decisive," vowing that he and other top officials were "ready to die" in a campaign to end Israel's decade-old blockade of the territory.
In a speech to hundreds of Gazan youths, Yahya Sinwar said Hamas has rejected international proposals to stop the weekly gatherings, which culminate in Monday's mass demonstration.
"We can't stop these protests. We are supporting, even leading, them," he said. The protests will be "like a tiger running in all directions," he said.
The demonstrations are to protest a crippling decade-long Israeli-Egyptian blockade, imposed after the group seized power in Gaza in 2007, and assert Palestinian demands for refugees to return to lost properties in what is now Israel.
Monday's demonstration will cap six weeks of protests and coincides with the US move of its Israel embassy to contested Jerusalem and the date when Palestinians mark 70 years of displacement, dispossession and exile.
Two-thirds of Gaza's two million people are descendants of Palestinians who fled or were expelled from their homes during the war surrounding Israel’s establishment.
Sinwar said "regional and international" mediators have relayed proposals in an attempt to defuse the tensions. He did not identify the mediators or reveal the offers.
Going further, he said Hamas leaders "are ready to die along with tens of thousands" as the marches climax next week.
Since the protests began on 30 March, Israeli soldiers have killed 51 Palestinians and wounded hundreds more, sparking criticism from rights groups, the United Nations and the European Union that Israel is using excessive force against unarmed protesters.
Sinwar was freed in a prisoner swap with Israel in 2011 and was elected as the movement’s Gaza chief in 2017.
Hamas has said if the protests "don’t achieve their goals," they will continue.