Gazans protest annexation as West Bank copes with coronavirus spike
Thousands of Palestinians demonstrated in the Gaza Strip on Wednesday to protest the Israeli annexation plan. The West Bank was calm amid increased efforts to prevent the spread of the coronavirus pandemic.
Palestinian Authority officials, meanwhile, took credit for “forcing” Israel to backtrack on its intention to apply sovereignty to parts of the West Bank.
The demonstration in the Gaza Strip was organized by various Palestinian factions as part of a “popular day of rage” against the planned annexation.
Addressing the crowd, several faction leaders urged Palestinians to confront the annexation plan and warned that “Israeli-American conspiracies would lead to a new intifada.”
The leaders also called on the PA leadership to remain committed to PA President Mahmoud Abbas’s May 18 decision to renounce all agreements and understandings with Israel and the US, including security cooperation. In addition, they called on the Arab states to refrain from normalizing relations with Israel.
Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar participated in the demonstration alongside representatives of Fatah, Palestinian Islamic Jihad and the PLO’s Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine.
The annexation plan was “consistent with the ideology of the Zionist movement, which is based on the eradication and seizure of land and the displacement of the Palestinian people,” Sa’di Abed, a senior official with the Palestinian Democratic Union (Fida) group, said in a speech on behalf of the Palestinian factions.
He condemned US President Donald Trump’s plan for Mideast peace, also known as the “Deal of the Century,” as a scheme designed to “liquidate the Palestinian cause and national rights.”
Abed called on the Palestinian leadership to terminate all signed agreements with Israel, withdraw PLO recognition of Israel and halt security coordination between the PA security services and the IDF.
Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh on Wednesday received a phone call from the chairman of Iran’s Islamic Consultative Assembly, Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf, who informed him of Tehran’s rejection of the “Deal of the Century” and the annexation plan, Hamas said in a statement.
“The Iranian official expressed his country’s readiness to support the steadfastness of the Palestinian people in confronting and thwarting the annexation plan,” the statement said, adding that Haniyeh told Ghalibaf the Palestinians are determined to foil the Israeli plan.
Ismail Radwan, a senior Hamas official in the Gaza Strip, said Palestinian unity was the best response to the annexation plan and the Trump deal.
“Today, all Palestinians took to the streets to tell the occupation that despite the division [between the West Bank and Gaza Strip] and despite the crimes, we are united in confronting the ‘Deal of the Century’ and foiling the annexation plan,” he said. “All options are on the table, including the popular and armed resistance, to thwart the plan.”
Palestinian Islamic Jihad official Khaled al-Batsh also threatened that the Palestinians would resort to “armed resistance” to foil the annexation plan.
Ahmed Hils, a senior Fatah official who participated in the protest, said Palestinians from across the political spectrum were united in rejecting the annexation plan by “the Israeli enemy.”
In the West Bank, the PA announced a five-day lockdown on Nablus, Bethlehem and Hebron as part of efforts to curb the spread of the coronavirus. The decision came after PA Health Minister Mai al-Kaila announced that 280 new confirmed cases of coronavirus had been detected in the West Bank over the past 24 hours, raising the number of Palestinians infected with the disease to 3,045.
Most of the cases, 199, were discovered in the Hebron area. There were 47 detected in the Bethlehem area, 17 in the Nablus area, three in Jericho, four in Tulkarm and 10 in Ramallah and El-Bireh. Eleven Palestinians have died from the virus since the beginning of March.
“Palestinians in the West Bank are more concerned about the coronavirus than the annexation plan,” Palestinian political analyst Maher al-Sha’er said. “That’s why we didn’t see major events in the West Bank in protest of the annexation. In the Gaza Strip, the situation is different because the number of confirmed coronavirus cases is very low.”
A PA official in Ramallah confirmed that the Palestinian leadership had received “assurances” from several parties that, contrary to expectations, the Israeli government would not announce the annexation plan on Wednesday.
“We received indirect messages from Israel that nothing will happen on Wednesday,” the official said. “But that does not mean that Israel has completely abandoned its annexation plan.”
Other officials claimed that the massive Palestinian diplomatic campaign in the past few weeks, as well as Abbas’s decision to renounce agreements with Israel and halt security coordination with the IDF, had “forced” Israel to “reconsider” its plan.
PLO Secretary-General Saeb Erekat, however, warned that the postponement of the annexation announcement, which was expected on Wednesday, was part of Israeli and American “tactics and tricks.”
The Palestinian leadership was pursuing its efforts to rally the international community against the plan, he said, adding that 192 countries have expressed opposition to it.
“Annexation is a war crime, according to international treaties,” Erekat said. “We won’t sit at the negotiating table [with Israel] where the annexation plan or the Trump plan are proposed.”
Follow us on twitter (ajuede.com) or on Instagram (ajuedeman) for details of the global situation presently.