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Gaza Strip Border Protests Canceled For 2nd Consecutive Week

The weekly Hamas-directed “March of Return” protest along the Israel-Gaza Strip border has been canceled for the second consecutive week, an indication that the enclave’s rulers are committed to preventing an escalation in violence. Hamas last week called off the demonstrations – which have taken place almost every Friday for over 18 months – in the aftermath of a 48-hour military exchange between the Israel Defense Forces and Iran-backed Islamic Jihad, a smaller Islamist group based in the Palestinian enclave. The official body that organizes the protests said the cancellations were meant to allow “the Palestinian people to continue to provide assistance to family members of martyrs and wounded persons, and those whose homes were damaged in the [recent] Israeli aggression.” Notably, Hamas did not participate in the flare-up, which began after Israel assassinated local Islamic Jihad commander Baha Abu al-Ata. Analysts believe that Hamas currently has no appetite for a confrontation and is instead focused on achieving long-term calm in the hope that Israel will relax restrictions on the entry of goods into the largely impoverished territory. In the aftermath of last week’s conflagration, in which some 450 rockets were fired at Israel, Islamic Jihad chief Ziad al-Nakhala contended that one of the terror group’s demands for a cease-fire was the IDF’s agreement to stop using live-fire against demonstrators approaching the security fence. Still others have postulated that Hamas might also be motivated by a desire to prevent masses of Gazans from congregating together, as this could precipitate a scenario in which they direct their ire at their own leadership.