Gaza protest rallies canceled due to coronavirus


JERUSALEM (JTA) — Mass rallies planned to be held on Gaza’s border with Israel have been canceled due to coronavirus concerns.

The rallies set for March 30 were scheduled to mark the second anniversary of the Great March of Return, a mass convergence on the border to protest Israel’s blockade of Gaza.

“We call upon our people not to go to the return encampments on March 30 and to stay home in order to maintain the safety of our people in the face of this lethal pandemic,” Khaled al-Batsh, a senior member of Islamic Jihad, told Reuters.

The first march took place on Land Day in 2018 and left at least 15 Palestinians dead and hundreds of protesters injured. Palestinians  have observed Land Day since 1976, when six Israeli Arabs were killed and another 100 injured during protests over the expropriation of Arab-owned land in northern Israel.

The marches took place nearly every week for more than a year, but were canceled by Hamas in November. Hamas, which controls the coastal strip, has called the marches “part of a non-violent popular struggle.”

There have been at least nine cases of coronavirus identified in Gaza.

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