An Israeli tank targeted a Hamas post in northern Gaza on Friday night after cross-border attacks earlier in the evening, the military said.
“An Israel Defense Forces tank recently attacked a military post belonging to the Hamas terror group in the northern Gaza Strip, in response to explosives that were thrown at the security fence during the evening,” the army said in a statement.
Around 200 rioters at a few locations in Gaza were burning tires and throwing explosives toward the fence, but most were not close to the border, the Walla news site reported.
The IDF is on war footing ahead of expected Land Day protests planned for the Gaza border on Saturday, with tens of thousands of Palestinians likely to participate in mass demonstrations in the coastal enclave.
This year’s Land Day, which marks the 1976 expropriation of Arab land by Israel, also marks a year since the start of weekly violent protests along the Israel-Gaza border, known as the “March of Return,” which at times have escalated into full-blown exchanges of fire between Israel and Palestinian terror groups in Gaza, most recently earlier this week.
Israel maintains that Hamas, a terror group that seeks to destroy the Jewish state, appropriated the campaign for nefarious purposes, using the civilian protesters as cover for violent military activities.
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.
Through phone calls, messages, public statements and pamphlets dropped from aircraft, the IDF told Palestinians in the Strip that any attempts to break through the border fence will be met with live fire.
The Israeli military’s primary concern in these March of Return protests is that large groups of people will break through the fence, armed with guns, grenades and knives, and either enter one of the Israeli communities located a few hundred meters from the border and attack those inside, or kidnap soldiers stationed along the security fence.
According to the Walla news site, senior IDF commanders are preparing for a variety of scenarios, including the possibility of deterioration to the point of a large-scale ground operation. The IDF deployed three additional brigades to the Gaza Division, along with an artillery battalion, and called up reservists from air defense and other select units.
An Egyptian military intelligence delegation has been working to broker a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas ahead of the protest — shuttling back and forth between Tel Aviv and Gaza — amid fears that clashes along the border could snowball into a larger conflagration.
Hamas is looking for a victory as after 11 years into its rule over the Gaza Strip, the majority of young people in the Strip — approximately 70 percent — are unemployed, electricity is available for just a few hours per day and potable water is scarce.