Palestine Christians limit Palm Sunday celebrations to mourn Gaza massacre victims
Palestinian Orthodox Christians have limited their celebrations on Palm Sunday, restricting the occasion to religious rituals in solidarity with protesters killed by Israeli forces in Gaza.
Greek Orthodox pastor in Ramallah, Elias Awad, told The New Arab on Saturday that he had cancelled celebrations for Sunday to mourn the deaths of 16 Gazans killed in a protest on Friday.
"We condemn yesterday's massacre and the killing of innocent people in a peaceful march in Gaza," Awad said during a vigil for the bloodiest incident in the besieged territory since a 2014 war.
"The world must stand with us and pressure the occupation to achieve our national rights," Awad added.
Eastern Orthodox Christians mark Easter on 8 April, while Western Christians marked the holiday on Sunday.
In Gaza, Christians similarly limited Palm Sunday celebrations.
"This year's celebrations have only comprised of mass and prayers, asking for the speedy recovery of all the people wounded and mercy for the martyrs," an official for the Greek Orthodox Church in Gaza told local media.
On Friday, Israeli troops opened fire on Palestinian protesters who approached the heavily fortified fence cutting off the blockaded Gaza Strip.
Sixteen Palestinians were killed in the attack, with more than 1,400 being wounded - 758 of them by live fire, with the remainder hurt by rubber bullets and tear gas inhalation.
Friday's mass marches launched a six-week-long protest campaign to demand the right to return of Palestinian refugees and to condemn a stifling decade-old blockade of the territory.
The Israeli military has defended actions of its soldiers and said they opened fire only when necessary against those throwing stones and firebombs or rolling tyres at soldiers.
Human rights groups have accused the army of using excessive force, and both the UN secretary-general and the European Union's foreign policy chief have urged an investigation.
Israel has rejected calls for an independent probe.