Hamas political chief Ismail Haniyeh has vowed to stage protests against the decades-long Israeli occupation in the West Bank and abroad.
Since March 30, Palestinians have been staging rallies along border of the Gaza Strip demanding the return of refugees to their towns and villages in historical Palestine from which they were driven in 1948 to make way for the new state of Israel.
The rallies are part of a six-week protest that will culminate on May 15. That day will mark the 70th anniversary of Israel's establishment — an event Palestinians refer to as the "Nakba" or "Catastrophe".
“Rallies will move to the West Bank and will be joined by our people abroad,” Haniyeh told a meeting organized by the Ministry of Endowments and Religious Affairs in the Gaza Strip on Wednesday.
He said the Palestinians “will rise up against the Israeli occupation in a popular resistance that started from Gaza”.
“The ‘Return March’ will be the Palestinian people’s approach against the occupation,” he said, referring to the anti-occupation rallies.
Haniyeh said the anti-occupation protests, now in the fifth week, “have achieved their goals, most notably is the return of the Palestinian cause to the forefront again."
At least 41 Palestinians have been killed and hundreds injured by Israeli gunfire since the protests began last month.
Observers believe that the rallies aim to break Israel’s decade-long siege on the Gaza Strip, as well as to thwart a U.S.-proposed “Deal of the Century” — ostensibly aimed at resolving the decades-long Israel-Palestine conflict.
The peace plan reportedly calls for across-the-board Arab recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and the annexation by Israel of large West Bank settlement blocs. In return, Israel would be expected to stage a gradual withdrawal from most Palestinian areas now under occupation.
So far, however, the Palestinian leadership has voiced its rejection of the initiative’s terms.
Last December, U.S. President Donald Trump Trump recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, triggering world outcry and protests in the Palestinian territories.