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NEWS ANALYSIS: Though Deadly, Gaza Protests Draw Attention and Enthusiasm

But that leaves its soldiers aiming rifles at unarmed people.

“What the Israelis are defending is not lives. They’re defending a fence,” Mr. Munayyer said. “That’s not the standard when it comes to the use of lethal force — to just snipe at people from hundreds of feet away.”

After the second Friday of protests, the Palestinians appeared unified. Though Hamas effectively managed the demonstrations in many ways, those participating came from the range of Gaza political factions and for the most part displayed only one banner — the Palestinian national flag.

Nathan Thrall, an analyst for International Crisis Group who closely watches Gaza, saw a “momentum building” in the second week. “You had huge numbers going on their own initiative,” he said. “People didn’t feel they were at a protest, they felt they were at some kind of a celebration.”

But Mr. Thrall — who noted that the Gaza demonstrators had burned the image of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia on Friday — said the demonstration’s main goal is to signal to the Palestinians’ Arab allies and to the United States that there will be a price to be paid if the Trump administration attempts to, in their view, eradicate the Palestinian issue.

“This is coming at a time when the Palestinians feel totally marginalized from the world agenda and even from the regional agenda,” he said. He pointed to an Saudi Arabian overflight agreement for Air India to fly to Israel, and the Arab states’ attendance alongside Israel at a recent White House conference on Gaza — one the Palestinians boycotted.

“They feel that the Arab states are not so much stabbing them in the back as in the face with their open embrace of Israel.”

Many Gazans have been talking about the demonstration’s final day, on May 15, as a moment for masses of protesters to try to cross the fence into Israel. That remains a nightmare scenario for Israel, according to Mr. Eiland, the retired general.

“If, and this has not happened yet, at the very same moment, thousands of people in different locations will assault the fence — among them children and women — this might create a real challenge to us because we do not want to shoot and kill dozens and hundreds of people,” he said. “And at the same time we do not want them to cross into Israel, because we cannot tolerate it.”

Source: NYT > World

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