Six Palestinians were killed and some 500 were wounded by Israeli rubber bullets and live fire in the Gaza Strip on Friday, as a series of massive protests intensified along the security fence surrounding the Hamas-controlled enclave, Palestinian sources said. Five were reported killed in escalating violence, hours after a Gaza man was killed at the border in disputed circumstances.
EDITOR’S NOTE: As we warned you about the other day, the Palestinian terror group Hamas was planning multiple attacks on Israel for their annual ‘March Of Return’ protests along the Gaza border. This morning, thousands of them rushed the security fences resulting in 6 dead, with over 500 wounded. Fears of a ‘Passover War’ has the IDF on high alert, and this amplified state of readiness is projected to remain in effect until the middle of May.
The Israel Defense Forces estimated that 17,000 Palestinians were taking part in “March of Return” demonstrations along the Gaza border, focused at five main protest sites where rioters threw petrol bombs and stones at troops, and burned tires.
The IDF did not confirm the Hamas death toll figures. In a statement reported by Israeli Kan TV, the army said organizers of the protests were deliberately trying to place civilians in harm’s way, and cited an incident in which it said a seven-year-old girl was sent to the security fence in an apparent cynical attempt to draw Israeli fire, but was spotted by troops who realized what was happening and ensured she was not hurt.
The Hamas-run Gaza health ministry reported that five men were killed during the mass protests along the border. Some 500 Gazans were injured as of 3:00 p.m., with most of the injuries being caused by rubber bullets and tear gas. A smaller number were hit by live fire.
The army confirmed that soldiers had shot at “main instigators.” It said some protesters were lighting tires on fire and throwing Molotov cocktails and rocks at IDF troops on the other side of the border. The military maintained that it would not allow Palestinian protesters to “violate Israel’s sovereignty” by crossing the security fence.
The main sites for protests in Gaza were Rafah and Khan Younis in the south, el-Bureij and Gaza City in the center, and Jabalya in the northern portion of the coastal enclave.
Early Friday morning, a Palestinian farmer was killed by Israeli tank fire near Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip, the Hamas-run health ministry said. Witnesses said he was working his land near the border when the shells hit, but Hadashot news reported that the army suspected the man had been trying to place an improvised explosive device near the security fence.
Via social media, leaflets dropped from airplanes and statements to news outlets, Israeli officials had repeatedly warned Palestinians not to try to breach the security fence during the protests.
Early Friday, the army stationed additional infantry battalions and more than 100 snipers along the border in order to prevent that from happening. The Border Police and Israel Police also sent additional forces to southern Israel in order to act as a secondary defense line in case Palestinians made it past the soldiers along the border.
The IDF declared the area around the Israeli side of the Gaza border a “closed military zone,” forbidding Israeli civilians from getting close without army permission.
IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot was leading the army’s riot control operation, with assistance from the head of the Southern Command Maj. Gen. Eyal Zamir, the head of IDF Operations Maj. Gen. Nitzan Alon, and Israel’s military liaison to the Palestinians, Maj. Gen. Yoav Mordechai.
The army said it held the Hamas terror group responsible for any violence along the Gaza security fence during the protests and for the “consequences” of it. Over the past few days, Palestinians in Gaza pitched tents near the volatile border with Israel ahead of the planned six-week “March of Return” protest that began on Friday. source