Riots on Gaza Border Fence Escalate: Dozens Dead, Hundreds Wounded

Tens of thousands of Palestinians are participating in riots along the Israel-Gaza border ahead of the opening of the US embassy in Jerusalem. IDF Spokesperson: “The IDF will not allow any damage to security infrastructure and will continue to defend and ensure the security of Israeli civilians”

Riots along the Gaza border (Photo: AP)

About 40,000 Palestinians have gathered today near the border fence since the morning hours. According to the Palestinian Health Ministry, at least 37 rioters were killed, and more than 1,600 had suffered injuries, and that many of the dead had not yet been identified. The Palestinian sources said 443 injuries were caused by live ammunition, 320 by tear gas, and three by rubber-coated bullets.

This is the largest number of fatalities suffered in one day since the latest round of protests began more than six weeks ago. The demonstrations today are taking place hours before the new US embassy was due to officially open in Jerusalem.

In a statement, the IDF accused the Palestinian militant group Hamas, which controls Gaza, of "leading a terrorist operation" and inciting protesters who had amassed by the border fence with Israel to conduct what Israel described as terror attacks.

The IDF estimated that around 40,000 "violent rioters" had assembled in 12 different locations along the border fence between Gaza and Israel and thousands more were gathered in a tent city about a kilometer from the border.

The military said the protesters threw Molotov cocktails, burned tires, and stones at Israeli soldiers positioned along the fence. The IDF also says it foiled an attack by three armed Palestinians near Rafah, close to the border with Egypt, during “a particularly violent demonstration.”

The IDF operated in several sites Sunday night to disrupt Hamas infrastructures planned to be used as a front base for terrorist activity on Monday and Tuesday. The IDF Spokesperson's Unit said the military was prepared for a wide variety of scenarios and has boosted its forces in the area. IDF commanders are constantly evaluating the situation from the ground and a closed military zone was declared in the fence area.

The IDF Spokesperson's Unit stressed that the military would act against any terrorist activity, work to maintain the Israeli sovereignty and prevent attacks on citizens and soldiers.

ISA Reveals Hamas' Methods

Earlier on Monday, the Israel Security Agency accused Iran of funding the recent protests in the strip. According to the organization, an investigation of a 19-year-old Hamas member from Gaza revealed the methods of the terror organization ruling the strip. The young man was arrested while making his way to Israel to steal security cameras and to cut the fence along the Gaza Strip.

His investigation revealed that Hamas was instructing its members to cut the fence and steal security cameras to help pull and bring down the fence and to disrupt the IDF's activity ahead of Nakba Day.

Nakba, Arabic for “disaster,” is the term used by Hamas and other anti-Israel groups in the Palestinian Authority and Gaza in reference to the anniversary of Israel’s establishment. Monday marks the 70th anniversary on the Gregorian calendar of the establishment of the State of Israel.

The ISA investigation further revealed that Hamas members were taking an active part in the violent protest activities along the fence every Friday, carrying knives, iron scissors and bottles of petrol.

The Hamas members' job, according to the ISA, is to provide Gaza's residents with tires and help burn them, in a bid to create thick smoke and convince the residents to enter Israel, throw Molotov cocktails and prepare flaming kites and hand them over to the violent activists.

The investigation further revealed that the Hamas members themselves are forbidden to approach the fence so as not to get killed or be apprehended by the security forces. If they manage to bring down the fence, they should enter Israel with weapons and carry out terror attacks.

The Shin Bet statement refers to another Gaza resident, 21-year-old Salim Abu Daher, who was arrested on April 28 after infiltrating Israel "in a bid to burn fields and groves." He told his investigators that Hamas members in plain clothes were providing the protestors with incendiary materials and that the organization was funding the violent activity, including sending flaming kites into Israel.

Another Palestinian, arrested on May 4, said Hamas was encouraging children and teenagers to cross the fence to steal IDF equipment. A 13-year-old boy was wounded the same time after taking part in the infiltration to steal a security camera at the Karni Crossing.


[Sources: CNN, Ynet News, Arutz Sheva]