Thursday, June 7, 2018

Israel Prepares For Massive Friday Protests In Gaza

IDF gears up for massive Friday protests in Gaza amid peak tensions

The Israeli military is preparing for massive riots along the Gaza security fence on Friday afternoon, potentially on par with violent clashes that took place on May 14, in which tens of thousands of people participated and some 60 Palestinians were killed, a senior army officer said Thursday.
The official said the military was working to limit the number of Palestinian deaths, but was prepared for a similar death toll as on May 14. The officer accused the Hamas terrorist group, which rules the Gaza Strip, of trying to create large numbers of casualties.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if tomorrow there were 40 deaths, but I want there to be zero,” said the senior officer from the army’s Southern Command, on condition of anonymity.

“Hamas wants more dead. We want to get to zero people killed,” he said.

The military had initially anticipated that large protests would be held along the border on Tuesday to coincide with the anniversary of the 1967 Six Day War, which Palestinians refer to as the naksa, or setback.

Instead, Hamas directed Gazans to riot on Friday, the last Friday of Ramadan, which Iran also designates as Quds Day in support for the Palestinians.
On Thursday, the military dropped flyers across the Strip warning residents to stay away from the border and not take part in the riots.
Earlier this week, the Israel Defense Forces moved reinforcement infantry battalions to the Gaza Division ahead of the expected violence. In recent days, army crews also operated on both sides of the security fence to set up several kilometers worth of additional barbed wire barriers, the officer said.
“We’ve been ready since Tuesday,” he said.
The senior official said the military’s assessment that Friday stood to be particularly violent was based on a variety of factors, including social media activity, speeches given in Gaza mosques, preparations on the ground and internal Hamas communication.
Tensions with the restive Gaza Strip reached a fever pitch last week, with a massive flare-up between terrorist organizations in the coastal enclave and Israel. Last Tuesday, Hamas, the Iran-backed Palestinian Islamic Jihad and a number of smaller groups launched approximately 200 mortar shells and rockets at southern Israel over the course of 22 hours. In response, the Israeli Air Force struck over 65 Hamas and Islamic Jihad targets in the Gaza Strip, including a Hamas attack tunnel.
The past week has also seen a number of rocket launches, the last one occurring early Sunday morning.
While the army believes Hamas is not interested in war, the senior officer said there is potential for a large-scale conflict in the near future.
“We’re at a junction right now. It can go one way or another,” he said.
According to the official, the two deciding factors are “escalation and miscalculation.”

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