More than 50,000 Gazans participated in protests along the Gaza border yesterday which left 59 dead and more than 2,400 wounded according to the Hamas-ran Palestinian Health Ministry.
The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) described Monday’s protests as reaching “unprecedented levels of violence” in what was the deadliest day since a new wave of protests began at the Gaza border fence seven weeks ago. The high casualty rate was the result of the intensity of violence from protestors as well as numerous attempts to breach the security fence across 13 different locations along the border.
On two separate occasions protestors attempted to plant explosives on the security fence and throughout the day at least ten improvised explosive devices were thrown or planted. Twenty-five kites carrying firebombs were sent over the fence, causing 23 fires on Israeli farmland. In another two separate incidents, IDF troops opened fire on armed protestors.
In response to the heightened level of violence by Hamas, the IDF struck 11 Hamas military facilities inside Gaza, including five targets in the Jabaliya area. “In addition, earlier today, an IAF aircraft and an IDF tank targeted two additional military positions belonging to the Hamas terror organisation in the northern Gaza Strip. These strikes were conducted in response to the incident in which IDF forces were fired upon by Hamas in the northern Gaza Strip,” the IDF said.
Israeli intelligence officials said yesterday that Hamas gunmen stayed away from the protests during the day, but were ready to burst through into Israel and carry out terror attacks if the fence was breached.
Israel is bracing for a second day of violence as the Palestinians commemorate “Nakba Day,” or the “Catastrophe,” to mark the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said: “Every country has an obligation to defend its borders. The Hamas terrorist organisation declares it intends to destroy Israel and sends thousands to breach the border fence in order to achieve this goal. We will continue to act with determination to protect our sovereignty and citizens.”
Israeli Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman held consultations with IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot last night. He instructed the army “to continue acting with determination to prevent any attempt to undermine Israeli sovereignty and Israeli citizens, in accordance with the policy outlined”. He also approved the reopening of the Karem Shalom border crossing to allow humanitarian aid into Gaza. The crossing was closed after it was set on fire during rioting on Friday.