The Israel Defence Forces (IDF) has deployed extra troops along the Gaza border ahead of Nakba Day protests expected to begin this afternoon.
The IDF said it is preparing for tens of thousands of Palestinians to participate in violent rioting on the Gaza border. Roads near the Gaza Strip have been closed and residents in southern Israel have been warned about the possibility of explosives and incendiary balloons being sent from Gaza. The prevailing assessment from security officials is that the Palestinian demonstrations will not result in an escalation in violence.
The IDF said yesterday that Hamas closed all the schools in Gaza today so that Palestinian children could participate in the Nakba Day events. The IDF added that the weather in Gaza is set to be around 80 degrees Fahrenheit, which could pose “a danger to children, who are susceptible to dehydration and heat-stroke. We call on Hamas to keep their children in school and not endanger them at the riots”.
The Palestinian group behind the protests, the Supreme Committee for the Return Marches and Lifting the Siege, reiterated in its statements that the protests would be peaceful, adding that monitors will be deployed to prevent any mass movement toward the border fence with Israel. Palestinians intend to arrive to the five border encampments in the early afternoon to commemorate Nakba Day. The plan is to remain at the tent encampments until 17:00 local time.
The Supreme Committee called on the Palestinian public to declare a general strike. They said: “It is incumbent upon the Palestinian public, wherever it is, to send a clear message to the Israeli occupation and the international community that we will neither forget nor forgive – no matter how much time has passed since then.”
Last year, on the day before Nakba Day, the US moved its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem and violent demonstrations involving 40,000 protestors took place at 12 locations along the Gaza border. Sixty one Palestinians were killed by Israeli security forces, 53 of whom Israel claimed were members of terrorist organisations.