“The IDF will not accept attempts to harm (Israeli) civilians, soldiers or the security fence,” Col. Iyad Sarhan, the Head of the IDF Coordination and Liaison Administration for Gaza, said in an Arabic-language video directed at Gaza residents on Friday, telling them that if they abide by the rules they could end the weekend “safe with your families.”
According to reports, Hamas is planning a mass transportation operation for Saturday, picking up protesters from 38 locations in the enclave and shuttling them to five sites along the border. Field hospitals have been set up at various points, and medical facilities in the Strip are on an emergency footing.
Israel wants an end not only to rocket fire but to all violence along the border, including the riots along the security fence and the airborne incendiary and explosive devices that are regularly flown into Israel — while also denying Hamas a victory.
Hundreds of snipers, from both the IDF and Border Police, will be positioned along the Gaza border in order to ensure that such a mass breach does not occur. The military refuses to provide an exact number, but estimates range from 200 to 300.
The IDF also refuses to publicize the specific rules of engagement that these snipers will abide by — as this information would be useful for terrorists — but generally, the military has said that people protesting at least 300 meters (980 feet) away from the security fence will not be targeted. Those who attempt to breach the fence or damage it can be targeted, along with anyone who presents an immediate threat to the troops serving along the border.
The IDF believes that by shooting individuals before they breach the fence it can prevent these mass infiltrations and the subsequent need to shoot large numbers of people rushing toward Israeli civilians and soldiers and presenting an immediate threat.
The IDF says it is preparing for a variety of scenarios on Saturday, including those in which ground forces must enter the Gaza Strip — something that Israel has not done throughout the past year of riots and clashes.
The three most likely scenarios that would lead to a dramatic Israeli retaliation are: shots fired at Israeli soldiers during the protests; a rocket or mortar shell fired at Israel during the march; and a rocket or mortar attack later in the evening in response to large numbers of Palestinian casualties.
An Egyptian military intelligence delegation has been working to broker a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas ahead of the mass protest, amid fears that clashes along the border could snowball into a larger conflagration.
On Thursday, the delegation passed a message from Israel to Hamas, telling the Gaza-ruling terror group: “Any mistake you make on Saturday could lead to war,” Channel 12 news reported.