Protests sporting Palestinian flags and placards condemning US and Israel erupted in Gaza and occupied West Bank cities of Ramallah and Jericho.

Palestinians demonstrate as Israel holds off an announcement on the controversial project amid international opposition.
Palestinians demonstrate as Israel holds off an announcement on the controversial project amid international opposition. (AP)

Thousands of Palestinians have protested in Gaza against Israel's plan to annex portions of occupied West Bank, as premier Benjamin Netanyahu held off an announcement on the controversial project and international opposition stiffened.

Netanyahu's centre-right coalition government had set July 1 as the date from which it could begin implementing US President Donald Trump's controversial Mideast proposal.

With no announcement currently scheduled on Israel's self-imposed kick-off date, opponents of the plan⁠ — notably Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and Gaza ⁠— were mobilising.

Several thousand on Wednesday brandished Palestinian flags and placards condemning Trump at a rally in Gaza City, while demonstrations were building in the occupied West Bank cities of Ramallah and Jericho.

'Israel is afraid of force'

"The resistance must be revived," Gaza protester Rafeeq Inaiah said. "Israel is afraid of force."

"The annexation is a threat to the Palestinians and violates international legitimacy resolutions," Saadi Abed of the Palestinian Democratic Union (FIDA) said, addressing the rally in Gaza. 

"The land grip will give away for a new Palestinian intifada," he said, going on to call on the Palestinians to close ranks and "end the rift to face occupation plans."

Abed called on the Palestinian Authority to pursue efforts to "hold Israel accountable in front of the International Criminal Court for its crimes against the Palestinian people."

READ MORE: Israeli annexation would end Palestinian hopes of statehood

This map by TRT World shows West Bank areas A, B and C, their current status and Israel's annexation plans.
This map by TRT World shows West Bank areas A, B and C, their current status and Israel's annexation plans. (Zeyd Abdullah Alshagouri / TRTWorld)

Hamas tests rockets to warn Israel over annexation plan

Gaza's Hamas rulers fired a volley of rockets into the sea on Wednesday in a warning to Israel not to annex part of the West Bank, sources in the organisation said.

The showcase launch of about 20 test rockets from the coastal Palestinian territory came as protests continued in Gaza.

Last week the Hamas said that should Israel go ahead with annexation, as provided for in a US peace plan, it would amount to a "declaration of war" against Palestinians.

Trump's Middle East plan

The Trump plan, unveiled in January, offered a path for Israel to annex territory and Jewish West Bank settlements, communities considered illegal under international law.

Netanyahu has voiced enthusiastic support for the Trump plan ⁠— which has been roundly rejected by the Palestinians ⁠— but the right-wing premier has not revealed his intentions for enacting the US proposals.

READ MORE: What Israel’s proposed annexation means for Jordan

Growing global opposition 

While the US has offered tacit support for annexation, albeit on another timeline than the one planned by Netanyahu, most of the international community is vocally opposed to the project.

Writing in Israel's Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper on Wednesday, Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson said that although he was a "passionate defender of Israel," he viewed annexation as "contrary to Israel's own long-term interests."

"Annexation would represent a violation of international law," he said.

In a rare criticism of Israel by Australia, the latter's Foreign Ministry issued a statement on Wednesday warning against "unilateral annexation or change in the status of territory on the West Bank."

France, Germany along with several other European states and the United Nations all oppose annexation, as do Gulf Arab states, with which Israel has increasingly sought warmer ties.

Jordan, one of only two Arab nations that has diplomatic ties with Israel, has warned that annexation could trigger a "massive conflict" and has not ruled out reviewing its 1994 peace treaty with the Jewish state.

READ MORE: Netanyahu’s great land grab to bring more misery to stateless Palestinians

Domestic opposition 

Israel's defence minister and alternate prime minister Benny Gantz has said annexation must wait until the coronavirus crisis has been contained, amid a sharp spike in new Israeli and Palestinian cases.

Gantz is due to take over as prime minister in November 2021 under the terms of a coalition deal.

Israel annexed East Jerusalem following the 1967 Six-Day War and then the Golan Heights on the Syrian border in 1981, in moves never recognised by most of the international community.

While some settlers have urged Netanyahu to take similar action in the occupied West Bank, other settlers oppose the Trump plan, as it envisions the creation of a Palestinian state across roughly 70 percent of the occupied West Bank.

"Trump's plan is to establish a Palestinian state in the land of Israel while leaving the Jews with little crumbs," Daniela Weiss, a settler movement leader, said.

"This thing will not happen. We will not eat this bait. We will not fall into this trap."

Despite mounting headwinds against implementing the Trump plan, experts have stressed that Netanyahu may still move forward in the coming days, noting that he is keenly watching the US presidential election and may be eager to act if he fears the president will not win a second term.

Presumptive US Democratic party nominee Joe Biden is opposed to any unilateral annexations by Israel.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies