Saturday, March 31, 2018


Palestinians report 4 killed as Gaza border march draws thousands

By Nikki Guttman, News Agencies and Israel Hayom Staff

Israel Hayom
March 30, 2018

Dozens of Palestinians clashed with Israeli security forces near the Israel-Gaza Strip border Friday ahead of the mass Hamas-orchestrated march on the security fence.

The area has been declared a restricted military zone.

The Palestinian Red Crescent said four protesters had been killed, two in northern Gaza and two in separate incidents near Khan Yunis, and over 350 people were wounded when Israeli troops used both crowd control measures and live fire against the protesters.

Hamas, the terrorist group that rules the coastal enclave, said it expected as many as 100,000 Palestinians to take part in the so-called "March of Return," scheduled to coincide with Land Day, which commemorates a 1976 incident in which Israeli forces killed six unarmed Arab citizens and wounded about a hundred amid violent riots.

Tens of thousands of Palestinians gathered in six areas near the border by noon on Friday. Several clashes erupted as protesters hurled rocks at Israeli troops and torched tires.

Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh arrived at the border shortly before noon and addressed the protesters.

"The masses protesting here have come to make it clear that there is no alternative to Palestine or the right of return. Our people have proven that they are not only devoted to this goal but are also united on the ground," Haniyeh said.

"We are working to realize our right of return in many ways," he continued. "We will never give up and we will not recognize the Zionist entity on the Palestinian land. Jerusalem is ours and there is no solution without the right of return."

"This march is the beginning of the return to all of Palestine. We will not relinquish one inch of our blessed land. The Palestinian people today are sending a clear message to [U.S. President Donald] Trump – we will never relinquish Jerusalem," Haniyeh declared.

Hamas military leader Yahya Sinwar made a rare public appearance on Friday when he, too, arrived at the protest.

The IDF Spokesperson's Unit issued a statement saying, "Thousands of Palestinians have gathered at six points along the fence. They have set fire to tires and are hurling rocks at the fence and at security forces, who are responding with crowd control measures.

"The IDF has deployed large forces to the area and is ready to handle any scenario. We will not allow protesters to compromise security infrastructure or violate Israeli sovereignty," the statement said. "The Hamas terrorist group is putting Gazans in harm's way and using them as cover for its terrorist activity. Hamas is responsible for these events and their consequences."

The military added further that no special instructions have been issued to the border-adjacent communities at this time.

A military official said the IDF was investigating reports that demonstrators had breached the Erez border crossing in an attempt to sabotage security cameras and cross the border into Israel.

Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman warned the residents of Gaza against participating in the march.

"To the residents of Gaza – the Hamas leadership is playing with your lives. Anyone who approaches the fence today puts themselves at risk. I suggest you go on with your life and not participate in this provocation," he tweeted in Arabic.

IDF Spokesman in Arabic Maj. Avichay Adraee tweeted, "Hamas is ignoring the rights of women and children and sends them to the border to advance its terrorist goals while shirking responsibility for their lives and well-being."

Following four separate Palestinian attempts to breach the border fence over the last week, ahead of Friday's march, the Prime Minister's Office Arabic Spokesman Ofir Gendelman tweeted Friday that "Hamas terrorists send thousands of Palestinians, some armed, to illegally cross the Gaza border fence and infiltrate Israeli territory in order to attack Israelis."

In the early hours of Friday morning, IDF troops deployed near the border fired at two suspects who were tampering with the security fence in the northern part of the border. No injuries were reported.

Overnight, an Israeli tank fired at two Palestinian suspects who reportedly attempted to tamper with the southern section of the border. The Hamas-run Al-Aqsa TV channel said one man was wounded and another, named as 27-year-old Omar Wahid Sammour from the village of Qarara near Khan Yunis, was killed.

An IDF statement confirmed that during the incident outside Khan Yunis, "two suspects approached the perimeter fence and engaged in suspicious behavior on the ground alongside it. In response, an IDF unit fired tank shells at them."

Bracing for potential violence, the IDF has deployed Infantry, Armored Corps and Combat Intelligence troops, alongside special forces, sappers and more than 100 snipers to the border.

Military, Border Police and Israel Police troops on the ground were backed by aerial assistance to better monitor protesters' movement along the fence and alert the troops in the event of attempts to target IDF posts or infiltrate border-adjacent communities.

Security forces have been ordered to prevent a breach of the security fence, but they have also been instructed to exercise maximum restraint so as to minimize the number of Palestinian casualties.

A senior Hamas official in Gaza told Israel Hayom Thursday that the mass march is planned as a peaceful protest and that Hamas has instructed its security forces to prevent protesters from coming within 800 meters (2,600 feet) of the security fence.

The official said that Hamas security forces were planning to search protesters to ensure no weapons are brought in.

"We don't want to see a bloodbath. Just a quiet protest," he said, warning that "if there are Israeli provocations and if Israel deliberately harms protesters or our people, we will mount a harsh response."

"We will not tolerate any aggression by the Israeli enemy," he vowed.

No comments: