Confrontations between the Israel Defense Forces and Palestinians resumed Friday along the border fence in the Gaza Strip, as protesters set tires on fire. Palestinian media reports that three were wounded from IDF fire east of Jabaliya.
According to IDF spokesperson, violent protests involving hundreds of Palestinians have been taking place since the morning in five “hotspots” along the border fence. IDF troops are using riot dispersal methods and live fire in accordance with protocol.
In light of assessments, the IDF declared the area around the fence a closed military zone.
Local councils report that despite a substantial presence of IDF, Police and Fire Brigade forces along the border, no special directions were given to residents as of yet.
Thousands of Palestinians are making their were towards friction points along the fence. Hamas is mandating all of its platoon officers to join the protests along with their family members. The IDF currently assesses there will be less demonstrators this Friday compared to last week, but not by a large margin.
Palestinians have begun torching tires near friction points along the border in hopes that the thick black smoke would impair IDF snipers’ vision. As of now, these are done away from the fence.
In preperation for the rallies, tractors expanded the encampment near Khan Yunis in the southern strip, and have mounded sand heaps along the fence to protect demonstrators from IDF fire.
The Adalah Legal Center and Al Mezan Center for Human Rights, based in Gaza, petitioned Israel’s Attorney General and the IDF’s Military Advocate General and requested they explicitly order Israeli forces to refrain from using any kind of live fire, including snipers.
“Live fire against protesters in Gaza is against international law and Israeli law,” read the statement. “We state and emphasize again that this infringement amplifies itself in the face of clear criminal dimensions in light of the fact that it is premeditated, on the basis of intention to use live ammunition illegally.”
The Palestinian Health Ministry in Gaza reported Friday on the death of Tair Mohammed Raba’a, a 30-year-old protester who was wounded near the border fence last week. Raba’a raises the Palestinian death toll to 22 since the March of Return began on March 30.
IDF insists it will not allow breach of the fence, which intelligence assessment indicate is Hamas’ goal. According to the assessments, Hamas is looking for a photo op of thousands of protesters in Israeli territory.
Despite the IDF’s claim that nothing has changed from last week’s deployment, the number of casualty and amount of media coverage seems to have impacted its appraoch, with senior commanders ordering soldiers to make more use of crowd control measures. According to the IDF, open-fire protocols remain as they were.
The Israeli military expects some 50,000 Palestinians to participate in Friday’s planned protests near the border fence with the Gaza Strip in five separate locations, an increase over the 35,000 who came out to protest last Friday. At a meeting on Thursday senior army officials also discussed the possibility that Hamas would exploit the chaos surrounding the protests in order to commit an attack inside Israeli territory.
On Thursday, Israel reinforced the military presence near the border fence. The rules of engagement during the protests are to remain unchanged, meaning that snipers will be permitted to shoot at anyone on the Gaza side of the fence who approaches close to it with the intention of crossing into Israel. Human rights organizations in the country and international groups have criticized this protocol, which they say led to the unjustified killing of unarmed Palestinians.