The IDF braces for the third consecutive week of violent riots along the border with Gaza. Under the call-signs #BurningFlag and #RaisingFlag, Palestinian social media called for mass burnings of Israeli flags and raising Palestinian flags.
Two weeks ago, 30,000 Gazans rioted at six main points along the security fence, throwing stones and firebombs at IDF troops protecting the border. The IDF responded with crowd control measures including tear gas and rubber bullets, resorting to live fire when Palestinians posed a threat. IDF Rules of Engagement require warnings before shooting. 18 Palestinians were killed by IDF snipers. At least 11 were identified as members of the Hamas military wing and Islamic Jihad.
The following Friday, an estimated 20,000 Gazans returned to protest. Organizers had called for the burning of 10,000 tires in order to obscure the field of vision of the IDF soldiers and to damage the security fence. Seven Gazan were killed in clashes with the IDF.
On Thursday, an attack against an IDF bulldozer during a Gazan riot led to an IDF retaliation hitting several Hamas military sites. On Palestinian was killed in the IDF strike.
Ahmed Abu Ratima, a spokesman for the March of Return, declared the riots to be a success due to the international reaction to Palestinian deaths.
“The processions have achieved many goals and have become a serious headache among the Israeli leadership,” Abu Ratima said in a statement. “The occupation leaders live in hysteria when their snipers’ crimes against Palestinian demonstrators were exposed, and when Palestinians were killed with live ammunition or [tear gas].”
The protest, called “March of Return” by its Hamas organizers, called on Gazans to cross the security fence and return to the lands the Palestinians had abandoned in the 1947 Israeli War of Independence. The beginning of the protest on March 30 coincided with Land Day, the day commemorating riots protesting appropriation of land by the Israeli government in 1976. The Hamas organizers called for the protests to continue for six weeks, ending on 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.
On Thursday, In a speech at Kibbutz Yad Mordechai on the Gaza border for Holocaust Remembrance, Day Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman assured that the IDF will do everything necessary to ensure secure borders while comparing the protests to the Holocaust efforts to wipe out the Jews.
“We have the ability to stand and the ability and the right to defend ourselves,” Liberman said. ” Therefore, my message to our neighbors from the south – you will never succeed in breaking us. The spirit, the hope and the faith that accompanied us during the Holocaust and during the War of Independence make us stronger than our enemies and all those who hate us, from all prejudices. You have no chance.”
The March of Return is not the only protest in Gaza being held on Friday. Palestinian Authority officials in Gaza organized demonstrations over PA employees not being paid by this month. PA employees in Judea and Samaria did receive their salaries. The Bank of Palestine’s management in Gaza City was forced to announce the closure of its branches, fearing that the protest would turn violent.