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Hamas had planned ‘victory rallies’ if Gaza border was breached

A Palestinian youth hurls a stone during clashes with Israeli forces on May 15, 2018 near the Gaza border
MOHAMMED ABED (AFP)
“After the victory speeches, celebrations will begin throughout Palestine,” Hamas said, on social media

The past several weeks have brought violent clashes and demonstrations to Gaza’s border with Israel, but despite a narrative that the protests were a grassroots movement, Hamas was integral in organizing riots, taking to social media to distribute instructions and plan ‘victory rallies,’ according to Israeli media.

Before clashes turned violent on Monday, Hamas posted on social media to encourage protesters to storm the Israeli border, claiming that after the border was successful penetrated, Palestinian leaders would speak to protesters in Israeli towns.

“Ismail Haniyeh will speak in Nahal Oz, Khalil al-Hayya in Kfar Aza and Nafed Azzam in Be’eri,” Israel’s Hadashot TV news quoted from Palestinian social media. “After the victory speeches, celebrations will begin throughout Palestine.”

(Haniyeh and al-Hayya are senior Hamas leaders, while Azzam is a leader of Palestinian Islamic Jihad. Nahal Oz, Kfar Aza and Be’eri are all Israeli kibbutzim in southern Israel.)

Responding to the announcement of the opening of the US embassy in Jerusalem, starting on March 30, tens of thousands of Palestinians have taken part in ‘March of Return’ protests. Monday’s clashes, in which 62 Palestinians died, marked the deadliest day since the 2014 Gaza conflict.

The social media missives did not just offer up a statement, but provided detailed directions to Israeli towns, pointing protesters to the towns where Palestinian leaders were supposed to be speaking, once the border was breached.

The instructions provided protesters with specific tactics on how to circumvent the border, saying that there would a tractor that would bring down the fence, and urging protesters to bring ‘a knife or handgun.’

“Seek to drive snipers from their positions,” the social media instructions said.

Israeli military officials corroborated the report that Hamas was influencing the protests in Gaza.

“In the end all the people who come up to the fence definitely do it under Hamas’s direction,” Colonel Kobi Heller, commander of the Israel Defence Force’s Southern Brigade, said, according to the Times of Israel.

“You had thousands of riled up protesters. Someone riled them up. Someone got them to get up as one and charge at the soldiers along the fence.

“By the way,” the Colonel said, “if they hadn’t charged like that, our soldiers wouldn’t have done anything.”

Heller pointed out that Hamas leadership stayed far away from the border during Monday’s clashes, which killed 62 Palestinians. “They didn’t come to the fence on Monday. They were afraid.”

Hamas, the ruling party in the Gaza Strip, is considered to be a terrorist organization by the US, EU and Canada, and the group is banned in Jordan. Australia, New Zealand and the United Kingdom consider the military wing of Hamas, the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, to be a terrorist organization.

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