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IDF braces for violence in Gaza, West Bank ahead of embassy move - Arab-Israeli Conflict
A demonstrator hurls back a tear gas canister fired by Israeli troops during clashes at a Gaza border protest , April 27, 2018. (photo credit: REUTERS/IBRAHEEM ABU MUSTAFA)
After a week of tension in Israel’s Golan Heights, Israel’s defense establishment is bracing for a week of violent confrontations along the border fence with the Gaza Strip and in West Bank.
With the opening of the US Embassy in Jerusalem on Monday followed by Nakba Day — the day Palestinians commemorate their perceived displacement after the declaration of the modern State of Israel — and the beginning of Ramadan on Tuesday, the IDF is gearing up for several days of violence in its most explosive arenas.
Thousands of soldiers from 11 battalions, including from the Nahal and Givati brigades as well as from special forces and intelligence gathering units, the Armored Corps, snipers and drones, will reinforce the troops already deployed. As part of the preparations, the training of regular combat troops has been paused in order to focus efforts on dealing with violent disturbances.
Gazans have been protesting along the border with Israel for the past six weeks as part of what organizers have called the Great March of Return, with demonstrators throwing stones, Molotov cocktails, rocks and launching incendiary kites towards Israeli troops. But the mass protests are expected to be much more aggressive than these demonstrations over the past seven weeks.
The IDF accuses Hamas of using the protests as cover to carry out terror attacks, and has identified attempts by protesters to burn army engineering machines; damage security infrastructure on the fence, including pillboxes; as well as kidnap soldiers under the auspices of the protests.
The IDF is expecting tens of thousands of protesters at some 20 sites along the Gaza border fence. The Southern Command is preparing for masses of these protesters, including armed activists and children, to attempt to breach the border fence with Israel.
The army has warned that if security infrastructures are damaged, the IDF will strike infrastructure inside the Gaza Strip, warning that “Hamas is responsible for everything that is happening in and out of the Gaza Strip, and in light of this, it bears overall responsibility for all events and their consequences.”
According to the IDF, Hamas operatives have been identified dismantling observation posts they built along the Gaza border, a move the army says “proves” that Hamas acts in order to intensify the violence.
“Hamas's control over the events is evident in their overt incitement to violence, their call to breach the fence, in their logistical organization and control over what happens to observation positions near the perimeter fence,” the army said, adding that “the IDF has repeatedly warned Gazans not to serve as a tool for Hamas and approach the fence.”
While the West Bank has remained relatively calm over the past weeks, an extra brigade has been sent to boost the troops already deployed, who have already increased their readiness in anticipation of riots.
The army is also preparing for potential lone wolf terrorists carrying out stabbing or shooting attacks, as well as further vehicular attacks; two car ramming attempts in the West Bank injured one soldier on Friday. The IDF is also preparing for an attack inside a Jewish community by a lone-wolf attacker.
In March, Maj.-Gen. Herzl Halevi, the head of the IDF’s intelligence directorate, warned at a conference organized by Yediot Aharonot that the convergence of events in May “signals that a possible explosion is coming, [driven on the Palestinian side by] growing frustration and hopelessness.”
As of Saturday, Gaza’s ministry of health has reported 48 Palestinian protesters have been killed by Israeli forces with more than 9,500 injured.
While the army has stated that it is not looking for an escalation of violence, and has briefed soldiers and commanders on the rules of engagement, soldiers have been given the green light to fire at the lower extremities of the principal instigators of riots, as well as those who pose a threat or imminent danger to troops or Israel’s security infrastructure.
On Friday, Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh took part in the protests, arriving at the northern part of Gaza border and encouraging the rioters.
"We're expecting the great march on the 14 and 15 of this month — the entire Palestinian people will be out on the streets of Palestine," he said.
"Our people will flock from the refugee camps in Lebanon to the northern border of Palestine, and our people in Jordan will also flock to the outskirts of Palestine," he added. "We will turn the Nakba that ended Palestine into a Nakba that ends the Zionist enterprise.”
LIBERTY HAS NO EXPIRATION DATEDemocrats wouldn't buy a clue if it was government subsidized.
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