BEIT HANUN, Gaza Strip – Thousands of Palestinians formed a human chain across the in the beleaguered Gaza Strip on Monday, February 25, to protest the crushing Israeli blockade and sending an urgent SOS plea to the international community.
"There is hardly any food, and the Israeli incursions are frequent," Huzeifa al-Masri, 14, who together with his classmates joint the chain, told Agence France Presse (AFP).
"We want to live in security like the rest of the world."
Under a light late-morning rain, thousands of schoolchildren were joined by adults along Salaheddin Road, the main highway traversing the center of the impoverished coastal strip.
They held banners and chanted slogans such as "End Gaza Siege", "Save Gaza" and "The World Has Condemned Gaza to Death."
After two hours, the demonstrators dispersed peacefully.
A small group of youths set fire to a tyre a few dozen meters from the Israeli army position at the Erez crossing.
The Israeli troops, put on alert for the event, responded by opening fire at them, wounding two.
Israel has sealed the Gaza Strip to all but vital humanitarian supplies since Hamas seized power last June following clashes with rival Fatah.
On January 17, Israel completely locked down the Strip, causing its sole power plant to shut down for lack of fuel.
Many international human rights groups have accused Israel of pursuing a policy of collective punishment against Gaza’s 1.6 million residents.
Jamal Al-Khudari, head of the Popular Committee Against the Siege, the event organizer, thanked participants.
"This is a peaceful and civilized act to let the people express their rejection of the siege and of collective punishment," he said.
"We are raising a cry to the world for it to act."
Organizers planned to place one person every meter along the roughly 40-kilometre road running from Rafah to Beit Hanun, for a total of around 40,000 people.
Hamas said the human chain sends a clear message to the world that Gaza could explode at anytime.
MP Ismail al-Ashqar warned that unless the siege is lifted "there will be a hurricane that will flood the whole region."
On January 23, Palestinian militants blasted several holes in the border barrier with Egypt, sending a human tide of hundreds of thousands streaming into Egypt to replenish depleted stocks.
Hamas security forces and Egyptian troops resealed the border on Sunday, February 3.
Israel fears that could have happened at its borders with the Strip.
"This is a message addressed to the international community and to the Israeli occupation, and I hope it will seize the opportunity to lift the siege," said spokesman Fawzi Barhum.
(IslamOnline.net and agencies)