update deskIsrael at War

Thousands march for Gaza resettlement amid Hamas rocket fire

"Return to Gaza now, return home, return to our holy land," declared Israeli National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir.

National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir at the Israel Police Independence Day ceremony in Jerusalem, April 20, 2023. Photo by Oren Ben Hakoon/Flash90.
National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir at the Israel Police Independence Day ceremony in Jerusalem, April 20, 2023. Photo by Oren Ben Hakoon/Flash90.

Israeli Cabinet ministers and lawmakers called for the reestablishment of a civilian Jewish presence in the Gaza Strip, speaking at an Independence Day march attended by tens of thousands in the border town of Sderot on Tuesday.

As the march got underway, Hamas fired a rocket barrage at Israel’s south, with parents and children ducking for cover.

The Nachala Settlement Movement, which seeks to rebuild the uprooted Jewish towns in the coastal enclave, organized the rally along with other Zionist groups including the Sovereignty Movement and Torat Lehima.

According to Nachala, while some 12,000 people registered in advance, approximately 50,000 showed up at the march on Tuesday.

Israeli National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir declared at the event that the government should encourage voluntary emigration of Palestinians from the Strip.

“Two things must be done: One, return to Gaza now, return home, return to our holy land. And two: encouraging emigration. To encourage the voluntary departure of the residents of Gaza. It’s moral, it’s rational, it’s right, it’s the truth. This is the Torah and this is the only way—yes, it is also humanitarian,” the minister told attendees.

Ben-Gvir also said he was “ashamed that I am the only one in the Cabinet who voted against the transfer of shipments to Gaza through Kerem Shalom.”

“I said it before, and I say it now too: Do you want humanitarian [aid]? … Do you want to provide food to children in Gaza? Bring back Ariel and Kfir Bibas,” he added, in reference to the youngest hostages held by Hamas, now aged 4 and 1 respectively.

Tuesday’s march departed from a parking lot near Kibbutz Or HaNer, located less than 2.5 miles from northern Gaza, and ended at an observation point in Sderot that overlooks the Strip.

In the summer of 2005, the government headed by Prime Minister Ariel Sharon unilaterally disengaged from Gaza, removing thousands of Israeli residents and transferring them to within the Green Line.

While the move was designed to bring calm to Israel’s southern border, it ushered in a victory for Hamas in the January 2006 Palestinian Authority elections. Within a year and a half, Hamas had seized total power in the Strip and evicted the Western-backed P.A.

During its Oct. 7 invasion of southern Israel, Hamas murdered some 1,200 Israelis and wounded thousands more. It also took more than 250 civilians and soldiers back to Gaza as hostages.

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