At 11:20 am on Sunday, the exact time at which Operation Cast Lead was launched one year ago, a minute-long siren was sounded throughout the Gaza Strip as residents of the coastal enclave stood to pay their respects to victims of the offensive.
In addition, a number of rallies are being held throughout the Gaza Strip, and Hamas prime minister Ismail Haniyeh will give a televised speech.
Posters of Israeli leaders in the Gaza Strip (Photo: AFP)
In a statement to the press, Haniyeh said that the war wasn't a walk in the park for the enemy and that new war will bring about another defeat for the enemy: "The Strip won because of its durability and the Zionist enemy's failure to implement the objectives it set for itself during the war. The resistance continued in its path and forced the enemy to retreat without giving up on even one of its principles and its right to bear arms and defend the Palestinian people."
Haniyeh mentioned that the Strip was under continual fire for 22 days, but that the "enemy" found it difficult to subdue it.
The Palestinians claim that 1,450 residents were killed during the operation.
A spokesperson from Hamas' Interior Ministry said that the purpose of the memorial events is "to expose the massacre to the world. The Zionist war leaders must be put on trial."
Standing in memory of the war's victims on Sunday (Photo: AFP)
Deputy Speaker of the Palestinian Legislative Council, Dr. Ahmed Bahar, said at the beginning of the anniversary events that the Palestinian people have embraced the resistance, bringing the only guarantee for victory.
"The enemy wanted to defeat the resistance and Hamas, but the ones who fell and were defeated were the enemy, its desire, and the desire of the American administration," he said.
Dr. Bahar scathingly attacked the Obama administration, which, according to him, has falsely pretended to present changes in the US' traditional stance. "But this administration will reap only failures and disappointments. How can the resistance be defeated when the movement is celebrating the anniversary of its founding with the participation of hundreds of thousands (of supporters)?"
Memorial activities marking the anniversary of Operation Cast Lead in the Gaza Strip will last 22 days, the same number of days the war lasted. Activities will include exhibitions, processions, and conferences – each of which will emphasize Hamas' supposed victory.
On the Israeli side of the border, there also was an attempt to mark the war's anniversary. A few dozen left-wing activists tried to march to the Gaza Strip in protest against the continued siege of the coastal enclave. The police arrested 16 of them as they tried to cross the border into the Strip.
Sderot Police Commander Shimon Nahmani said: "A group of 16 people entered unauthorized and without prior coordination (with the authorities) and held a protest on the location. We had to employ a reasonable amount of force, but we didn’t beat anyone," he said.
"They are currently being interrogated at the station, and may be charged with entering a closed military zone without a permit and holding an illegal demonstration."