Gaza, March 30 (IANS) Thousands of Palestinians gathered near the Gaza-Israel border on Saturday to mark the Great March of Return's first anniversary, while the Israeli Army reinforced its presence in the area to deal with protests.
The Great March of Return began on March 30 last year. The movement, which peaks every Friday, demands return of Palestinian refugees to their ancestral land and lifting of the blockade Israel has imposed on Gaza Strip since 2007, when Hamas seized control of the enclave.
Since the beginning of marches, 271 Palestinians have been killed by the Israel military, including 195 at rallies and 76 in clashes, according to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.
Dozens of volunteers were placed in the area on Saturday to restrain demonstrators from getting too close to the border fence. Ambulances lined up in front of clinics and Hamas police supervised encampments erected far from the fence, Efe news reported.
Food stalls were set up and street vendors tried to evoke the festive atmosphere. The rally organisers put the gathering points 700 metres away from the border with the aim of avoiding clashes and commemorating the occasion peacefully.
Palestinians called Saturday's rally "march of million" and it was expected to be huge as it coincided with what Palestinians call Earth Day, which commemorates the six civilians who were killed in 1976 at a rally staged to protest Israel's seizure of Palestinian-owned lands in Galilee.
Organisers also called for a general strike, with all government offices, public institutions, schools and shops being closed.
An Egyptian delegation, which mediates between Israel and the Palestinian militia to avoid a fresh outbreak of violence, was at the Strip on Friday to obtain commitment of both the parties not to escalate the situation.
The UN humanitarian coordinator for the occupied Palestinian territory, Jamie McGoldrick, travelled to the Strip to monitor the situation.
Disclaimer :- This story has not been edited by Outlook staff and is auto-generated from news agency feeds. Source: IANS