Israeli army to double forces in Gaza, West Bank for US embassy opening
MENAHEM KAHANA (AFP/File)
The Israeli army said Saturday it would almost double the number of troops surrounding the Gaza Strip and in the West Bank to tackle Palestinian protests against Monday's controversial opening of a US embassy in Jerusalem.
Three additional infantry brigades will be deployed next week, two around the Gaza Strip and one in the West Bank, nearly doubling the number of fighting units currently serving, an army spokesman told reporters.
The announcement does not concern Israeli-annexed east Jerusalem, where responding to protests is the responsibility of the police.
US President Donald Trump will not attend the opening of the new embassy in Jerusalem on Monday -- rather addressing the invitees by video -- but his daughter Ivanka and son-in-law and key adviser Jared Kushner will.
Palestinians consider the eastern part of the city as their capital and Trump's December announcement of the embassy move led to major protests in Gaza and the West Bank.
Tens of thousands of Palestinians are expected to protest along the Gaza border Monday, with the strip's Islamist rulers Hamas voicing support in recent days for attempts to breach the fence.
Asked what he wanted to see from protests on Monday and Tuesday, Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar pointed out Israel has never specifically defined its borders. "What's the problem with hundreds of thousands breaking through a fence that is not a border?"
Sinwar said he hoped Israel would not shoot at what he called "peaceful" protests.
The army forecasts that there will be approximately 10,000 protesters across 17 different sites of confrontation along the border and has stationed 11 battalions to contain the unrest, a senior officer in the southern command told Haaretz newspaper on Friday.
Separately Saturday Israeli aircraft carried out a number of strikes against what the army said was a Hamas attack tunnel near the Gaza border.
Hamas said the strike was an attempt to deter Gazans from participating in next week's protests.
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