By Mohamed Majid
GAZA CITY, Palestine
For the 37th consecutive Friday, Palestinians started to converge on the Gaza-Israel buffer zone to take part in ongoing mass demonstrations against Israel’s decades-long occupation.
In a statement, Gaza’s National Authority for Breaking the Siege renewed its call for Gazans to take part in the ongoing rallies, naming the 37th Friday as "Great Intifada of Stones," as it coincided with the 31st anniversary of the Palestinian intifada (uprising).
The first intifada, or the so-called "Intifada of Stones”, began on Dec. 8, 1987 from the Jabalya refugee camp in the northern Gaza Strip before moving to all Palestinian towns and camps.
“Our people insist on taking part in the return marches for the 37th Friday, which coincides with the 31st anniversary of the Intifada in which all our people revolted against the Zionist (Israeli) occupation," Hamas spokesman Hazem Qassem said in a statement.
"The struggle of our people is just and legitimate and will continue until its goals of freedom and return are achieved," he added.
Protesters in Gaza demand the right to return to their homes and villages in historical Palestine, from which they were driven in 1948 to make way for the new state of Israel.
They also demand an end to Israel’s 12-year blockade of the Gaza Strip, which has gutted the coastal enclave’s economy and deprived its roughly two million inhabitants of many basic commodities.
Since the rallies began on March 30, more than 210 Palestinians have been martyred -- and thousands more injured -- by Israeli troops deployed near the buffer zone.