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More Gaza protests expected on Friday

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The March of Return organizing committee in the Gaza Strip has called on Gazans to come out en masses for marches on Friday, the first of Ramadan, under the slogan “Friday for the martyrs and the wounded.” After heavy clashes on Monday in which at least 60 Palestinians were killed, it’s expected that Friday’s demonstrations will be smaller, more along the lines of previous weeks. However, the Israel Defense Force will be deployed to the Gaza-Israel border.

According to the committee, during Ramadan, which began this week, there will be various activities at gathering points using a schedule that takes the holiday and its daily fast into account. The committee said that the next mass march after this week would be on June 5, the anniversary of the “naksa,” as Palestinians refer to the Six Day War.

Hamas meanwhile announced that 500 people wounded in the demonstrations over the past several weeks received $200 each in financial aid. The others would receive the aid over the next few days, the group said.

The military has started to reduce its forces in the south and in the West Bank, though there are still considerable reinforcements deployed compared to normal. The security establishment is actually more concerned about clashes occurring in the West Bank and East Jerusalem on the first Friday of Ramadan. In Gaza, it believes, demonstrations will be less intense, as Hamas appears to be trying to restore calm.

Gazans have protested at the border fence each Friday since late March with the goal of a massive climactic rally on May 15, Nakba Day. After the bloodshed on Monday, however, the protests on Nakba Day were relatively subdued. Some 4,000 demonstrators arrived at the fence, compared with the tens of thousands who protested there the day before.

The IDF said at least 24 of the 60 people killed on Monday belonged to Hamas and Islamic Jihad, while on Wednesday a senior Hamas official said 50 of those killed were members of the organization.

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