IDF braces for mass Gaza riots, warns Hamas intends to ‘massacre’ soldiers
SAID KHATIB (AFP)
The Israeli army is gearing up for the final week of the “March of Return” protests and issued a stern warning on Sunday that Hamas will attempt to breach the security fence and carry out a “massacre” of Israeli citizens.
In what is deemed to be the most violent protests to date, the army is predicting that more than 100,000 Palestinians are expected to participate in the protests across 17 different sites.In contrast, during last Friday’s protests there were five flash points.
In anticipation of the demonstrations, the army has begun reinforcing battalions along expected flashpoints in the Gaza Strip. Given the inflammatory nature of events occurring this week -- namely President Donald Trump’s relocation of the Tel Aviv US embassy to Jerusalem and Nakba Day -- military forces predict that protests will erupt in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.
On Sunday night ahead of the protests, the IDF Spokesperson’s United posted a dramatic video on its Twitter that warned of possible scenarios: “Israeli homes destroyed; farmland torched; innocent men, women and children massacred.” In the background, a graphic image shows a young girl playing with a dolls house followed by a bloodstained doll lying on the ground.
“This is not the video that anyone wants to see this week,” the female soldier says in the video. “The IDF will do everything to protect its civilians from the massacre that Hamas is planning.”
This is NOT the video that anyone wants to see this week. pic.twitter.com/gBUIQivyRo— IDF (@IDFSpokesperson) May 13, 2018
The army is concerned that this week Hamas will encourage Gazans to attempt a massive rush and breach of the border fence -- something Israel has repeatedly expressed unease about -- and according to the security official cited by Haaretz, protesters will also endeavor to abduct Israeli soldiers.
On Sunday, Hamas published images and maps on social media illustrating the quickest routes from the border to Israeli communities in the vicinity in the event that protesters made over the fence, Haartz reported.
“The IDF’s preparation includes the additional deployment of a number of combat battalions to the Gaza border, special forces, intelligence collection units, and snipers. In addition, the Central Command will also receive additional combat battalions and intelligence collection teams as reinforcement,” the army said on Sunday.
On Thursday, Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar signaled his support for thousands of Palestinians to breach the border fence. “What’s the problem with hundreds of thousands breaking through a fence that is not a border?” he said, in his first major briefing to international media since becoming head of the group in 2017.
Sinwar said the mass protest would be “decisive,” and declared that he and other top Hamas officials were “ready to die” in a campaign to end the blockade.
Given the dire humanitarian situation in the coastal enclave -- with Gazans exposed to pollution, impure water and epidemics -- Israeli security officials believe that it is in Hamas’s interests to redirect the citizens frustrations towards Israeli soldiers in order to stave of steeping responsibility on the militant group.
Ahead of the protests, the Israeli Air Force began dropping leaflets in the coastal enclave on Sunday urging Palestinians not to approach the fence.
“The Israel Defense Forces is determined to defend Israel’s citizens and sovereignty against Hamas’ attempts at terrorism undercover of violent riots,” the leaflets read in Arabic. “Don’t get near the fence and don’t take part in Hamas’ show, which endangers you.”
This IDF has said it will attempt to keep the protesters further away from the fence than they have been in previous protests. Haaretz reported that the troops are hoping to discourage advancement past the tent area located around 300 meters of the fence.
The annual commemoration of Nakba Day, which this year will take place on May 15, marks the day when approximately 760,000 Palestinians, estimated today to number about 5.5 million with their descendants, fled or were driven from their homes. Israel, simultaneously, celebrates this its day of Independence and this year will be marking its 70th anniversary.
The “March of Return”, a seven-week long stint of protests, are set to climax on Nakba Day.
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Why not mine the fence area to prevent breaching?