Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Israel Deploys Sharpshooters On Gaza Border For Palestinian Protests, IDF Tanks Shell Hamas Positions

Israel deploys 100 sharpshooters on Gaza border for Palestinian protests

The Israeli military has deployed more than 100 sharpshooters on the Gaza border ahead of a planned mass Palestinian demonstration near the frontier, Israel's top general said in an interview published on Wednesday.

Organizers hope thousands in Gaza will answer their call to flock, starting on Friday, to tent cities in five locations along the sensitive border in a six-week protest for a right of return of Palestinian refugees to what is now Israel.

Citing security concerns, the Israeli military enforces a "no go" zone for Palestinians on land in Gaza adjacent to Israel's border fence.

Lieutenant-General Gadi Eizenkot, the military's chief of staff, told the Yedioth Ahronoth daily that the military would not allow "mass infiltration" or tolerate damage to the barrier during the protests.

"We have deployed more than 100 sharpshooters who were called up from all of the military's units, primarily from the special forces," Eizenkot said in the interview. "If lives are in jeopardy, there is permission to open fire."

Israeli soldiers are confronted by frequent violent Palestinian protests along the Gaza border and have used tear gas, rubber bullets and live ammunition against demonstrators whom the military said hurled rocks or petrol bombs at them.

Organizers said the protest is supported by several Palestinian factions, including Gaza’s dominant Islamist Hamas movement that is dedicated to the destruction of Israel.


Israeli cabinet minister Tzachi Hanegbi, speaking on Israel Radio, said Hamas had avoided direct conflict with Israel since the end of the 2014 Gaza war.

But he said that pressure Hamas was now feeling from Israel's destruction of some of its network of attack tunnels near the border, coupled with harsh economic conditions in Gaza, were "a formula for rising tension."

The start of the demonstration was symbolically linked to what Palestinians call "Land Day," which commemorates the six Arab citizens of Israel killed by Israeli security forces in demonstrations in 1976 over land confiscations. The week-long Jewish holiday of Passover, when Israel heightens security, also begins on Friday.

The protest is due to end on May 15, the day Palestinians call the “Nakba” or “Catastrophe”, marking the displacement of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians in the conflict surrounding the creation of Israel in 1948.

An Israeli tank shelled two Hamas positions in the northern Gaza Strip on Wednesday after two Palestinian men set fire to a platform near the security fence surrounding the coastal enclave, the army said.
The military said the targets were observation posts used by the terrorist group, which rules the Gaza Strip.

Earlier, two men approached the abandoned Karni Crossing in northern Gaza and set fire to a wooden platform connected to it, the army said.
“The IDF takes seriously any attempt to harm or deface the security fence and defense infrastructure,” the army said in a statement.
The Israel Defense Forces stressed that the two suspects did not get through the security fence and enter Israeli territory.
The incident came a day after three armed Palestinian men succeeded in doing just that, spending several hours in southern Israel before the army realized they had crossed the fence and captured them.
On Saturday, a group of four masked Palestinian men also cut through the security fence and entered Israeli territory. They tried to set fire to the heavy machinery being used to construct a new barrier around the Gaza Strip that is meant to counter the efforts by terrorist groups to tunnel into Israel. The men were quickly spotted and fled back into Gaza when IDF soldiers arrived minutes later, without causing significant damage to the engineering equipment.
The army has also been preparing for a massive protest in Gaza scheduled for Friday, during which thousands of demonstrators are expected to take part and possibly try to break through the security fence.

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