By Middle East Affairs
Three Palestinians managed Sunday to cross the Gazan border into Israel and return before Israeli tanks could hit them with shells, Haaretz reports.
Palestinian media outlets said the tanks fired seven shells into the Gaza Strip about five miles south of Gaza City. The military confirmed that Israeli troops were not fired upon.
The Israel Defense Forces has commanded troops to prioritize that no one breaches the border or damages the already dilapidating border fence. Last Friday Israeli troops killed 9 civilians, including one journalist, during the six-week long “Great March of Return.” The total number of Palestinian deaths since the protest began March 30 has reached 29.
Israel is worried a war of attrition may break out along the border. Haaretz reported Saturday that Israel received intelligence that Hamas, the armed group that controls Gaza, is prepared to damage the equipment Israel is using to build barriers against tunnels from Gaza, and that Hamas is also ready to seize an opportunity to kidnap an Israeli soldier for leverage.
Hamas claims it doesn’t want violence and has urged Israeli military to stop shooting unarmed civilians. Israel, however, says Hamas is sending militants to the border in civilian clothing.
Insider sources told Haaretz Saturday that if protesters continue to attempt to breach the Gazan border, Israel will consider carrying out strikes on Hamas.
Israel is facing global criticism for its tactics during the protests. The military maintains that it has only targeted militants and that troops are also directed to shoot at the feet and legs of protesters when they near the border.