Palestinian leaders pledge to go beyond the Gaza fence next time and surprise Israel again after massive protests near the barrier were met with fierce Israeli force.
As of Monday, at least 17 Palestinians have been shot dead during the annual “March of Return” to commemorate Land Day, which began on Friday.
Former Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal said on Sunday Israel has been emboldened by the crises and “weaknesses” plaguing the Arab world.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also sees US President Donald Trump’s presence in the White House as a “golden opportunity to liquidate the Palestinian cause,” Meshaal said in Istanbul.
Referring to Trump’s so-called peace plan for the Middle East, the former Hamas leader said: “The deal of the century is being cooked in a dark rooms, and they feel that some Muslims are cooperating with them.”
Meshaal was apparently referring to reports that some Arab countries, including Saudi Arabia and Egypt, had been pressuring the Palestinians to accept Trump’s plan.
Saudi Arabia has refrained from commenting on the Gaza carnage which has marked Israel deploying at least 100 snipers and Merkava tanks near the fence to target protesters.
Tens of thousands of Palestinians have begun a six-week march near the fence to demand what they say is their right to return to the homes of their families in what is now called Israel.
Meshaal vowed that Palestinians will continue their protests along the Gaza fence. “The Palestinians will not give up the ‘right of return’.”
“We will not recognize the legitimacy of the occupation and we will not surrender in the face of the siege” on the Gaza Strip, he added.
Meshaal said that Israel had prevented weapons from reaching the West Bank, only to get car-ramming and stabbing attacks.
“Our people are capable of defending themselves,” he said. “In the past, the enemy was used to rockets being launched from the Gaza Strip. But this time Gaza surprised [Israel] with something new, and there’s more in stock.”
The magnitude of the annual demonstration this year highlights the Palestinian anger at Trump’s declaration of Jerusalem al-Quds as the so-called capital of Israel and his decision to move the American embassy there.
Meshaal said Trump and Netanyahu do not know that “al-Quds is our soul, history, future and fate.”
The enemies of the Palestinians, he said, “have begun realizing that their conspiracies will not pass. That’s why they have devised a new scheme to obliterate the right of return, tighten their grip on Jerusalem and dry the sources of funding for Hamas.”
The Palestinians, he said, “will not be defeated because their sons are fighters and sons of martyrs.”
In Gaza City, Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh said Sunday he was proud of Palestinian children who took part in the Friday protests.
Haniyeh was speaking during a ceremony in his office to honor Mohammed Ayyash, a Palestinian boy who was filmed covering his face with a homemade mask filled with onions and garlic to avoid the effects of tear gas.
“The children of Palestine and Gaza, who bravely challenged the Israeli military, relayed a message to the world that the Palestinians can’t be defeated and are determined to achieve the right of return and end the [blockade] on the Gaza Strip,” Haniyeh said.
Haniyeh said that the mass protests will continue, adding that no one knows where the demonstrators will stop next time.
“We wish to tell the world that the March of Return was peaceful and civilized, and women, youths, children and elderly participated in it,” he said. “The killings by the Israeli army were premeditated,” he said.