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'Gaza protests against Israel suspended for 3 months'

Weekly protests began in March 2018

By AFP - Dec 26,2019 - Last updated at Dec 26,2019

An explosion is pictured among buildings during an Israeli air stike on Gaza City on May 4 (AFP photo)

GAZA CITY, Palestinian Territories — Weekly Hamas-backed demonstrations along the Gaza-Israel border will be suspended for three months, protest organisers in the Palestinian enclave said Thursday.

Protests on Friday would be the last until March 30, 2020, Talal Abu Zarifa, a member of the organising committee for the "March of Return", told AFP.

The weekly protests began in March 2018, calling for an end to Israel's blockade of the Gaza Strip and for Palestinians to be allowed to return to their ancestral homes inside Israel.

When they resume, the demonstrations will be monthly, rather than weekly, Zarifa said.

He did not give a specific reason for the decision, but the number of attendees has dwindled in recent months.

Israel accused the Gaza Strip's Islamist rulers Hamas of orchestrating the protests as cover for cross-border attacks.

But Hamas has over the last year gradually shaped an informal —  if precarious and at times intermittent —  truce with Israel, under which Israel has slightly eased its blockade of the enclave in exchange for calm along the border. 

As part of the agreements, Israel has allowed Gulf state Qatar to bring millions of dollars worth of fuel and cash into Gaza every month, easing a humanitarian crisis.

Demonstrations have seen Palestinians throw stones and molotov cocktails at Israeli forces along the border, who have used live fire on protesters.

The protests initially attracted tens of thousands of people.

At least 348 Palestinians have been killed in Gaza by Israeli fire since the marches began, the majority during the demonstrations, according to an AFP toll.

A further 7,800 people have been wounded by gunfire, according to the World Health Organisation.

Israel has waged three aggressions against Gaza since 2008.

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