The Hamas terrorist organization’s call for protests brought some 30,000 Palestinians to the Israel-Gaza border fence on Friday. The situation quickly became violent, resulting in 18 Palestinians killed and an estimated 1,400 injured.
Focusing on six main points along the border, rioters threw stones and firebombs at IDF troops and tried to breach the fence en masse, leading the IDF to respond with tear gas and rubber bullets.
The IDF issued a statement, saying it faced “violent terrorism.” IDF spokesman Ronen Manelis said the IDF used “pinpoint fire” in restricting attempts by the rioters to breach the security fence.
In some instances, Palestinians were suspected of attempting to place improvised explosive devices (IED) on the security fence. This has happened four times in the last month, and in one such incident, four IDF soldiers were severely injured.
Manelis said that all those who were killed were engaged in violence and that Gazan health officials greatly exaggerated the number of wounded. He estimated that at most, several dozen were injured by live-fire while the rest were affected by tear gas and other riot dispersal means.
In one such incident, two Palestinians approached the fence and opened fire forcing the IDF to respond in kind. No IDF casualties were reported, but in response to the attack, the IDF destroyed three Hamas sites with tank fire and airstrikes.
“All the fatalities were aged 18-30, several of the fatalities were known to us, and at least two of them were members of Hamas commando forces,” Manelis said in the statement.
On Saturday night, the IDF published a list of the 10 dead rioters, identifying them and citing their official positions within terror organizations. According to the list, eight of the men were members of Hamas, one was from the the al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades and another affiliated with a Salafist terror group in Gaza.
The IDF added that at least one of the Hamas members, Sari Abu Odeh, was part of the terror group’s elite Nukhba force and that another, Muhammad Abu Amro, participated in tunnel operations.
Manelis stressed the IDF acted “in strict accordance with the rules of engagement, firing only when necessary and avoiding civilians strategically placed by Hamas in harm’s way.”
In one incident, a seven-year-old girl was sent to the security fence in an attempt to coerce the IDF to fire. Fortunately, she was spotted by troops, and the girl was unharmed in the incident.
Manelis warned that further escalation of violence was possible in the coming days including the firing of rockets into Israel from Gaza.
Everything you need to know about the riots in Gaza today, explained by Maj. Keren Hajioff pic.twitter.com/irJL12DrQp
— IDF (@IDFSpokesperson) March 30, 2018
Rioting had continued into Saturday, though in a much more subdued manner with only a few hundred protesters on the Gaza side of the fence. Nonetheless, the riots resulted in two more deaths and 25 injured.
Hadashot news reported Saturday morning that three rockets were launched from Gaza towards Israel overnight but that all three fell inside Gaza.
Israeli officials repeatedly warned Palestinians not to try and breach the Israel-Gaza border fence during the protests, via social media and by dropping leaflets. Unfortunately, many Palestinians in Gaza blatantly disregarded the IDF’s pleas even before the protests began. Early on Friday, one Gazan was killed and another was injured as they approached the security fence.
The protests on Friday coincided with “Land Day,” a day each year when Palestinians protest the Israeli government’s response to Arab-Israeli riots in 1976 against a plan by Israel to set aside land for public use. Hamas called for the protests to continue until “Nakba day” on May 15 when Palestinians, each year, commemorate the “tragedy” of the establishment of Israel. “Nakba Day” is one day after the Gregorian calendar’s state of Israel’s declaration of independence.
Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar was on site, calling on hungry protestors to “eat the livers of those besieging” Gaza, i.e. Israel.
“The March of Return will continue,” Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar said to the protestors. “It will not stop until we remove this transient border [between Gaza and Israel].”
Approximately 900 Palestinians took part in riots that broke out in scattered locations around Judea and Samaria on Friday, leading to another 60 Palestinians who were injured.