Palestinian demonstrators at the Gaza-Israel border, May 11, 2018. Eliyahu Hershkovitz

'Don't Go Near the Fence': Israeli Military Drops Leaflets Warning Palestinians to Avoid Gaza Border Ahead of Mass Protests

Hoping for a mass breakthrough at the border fence, Hamas has posted pictures and maps on social media showing the shortest routes to nearby Israeli communities

The Israel Air Force has begun dropping leaflets over the Gaza Strip warning Palestinians not to approach the Israeli border Monday or take part in any violent activity aimed at damaging the border fence or harming the soldiers deployed along it.

“The Israel Defense Forces is determined to defend Israel’s citizens and sovereignty against Hamas’ attempts at terrorism undercover of violent riots,” the leaflets say. “Don’t get near the fence and don’t take part in Hamas’ show, which endangers you.”

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Air force planes dropped the leaflets all over Gaza on Sunday.

On Monday, the IDF is expecting about 100,000 demonstrators concentrated at three main locations. The demonstrations are expected to begin at 10 A.M., when busloads of protesters will arrive at the fence.

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Israeli intelligence warns of attempts by large numbers of demonstrators to break through the barrier. Hamas, the IDF says, hopes hundreds of people break into Israel, torch construction vehicles and vandalize pillboxes, lookout posts and firing posts. The army is also preparing against attempts to kidnap soldiers under cover of the demonstrations.

The IDF has sent messages to Hamas that if the fence is vandalized, the military will target major Hamas facilities in Gaza – these could be massive airstrikes if there is a mass breakthrough. 

The army is preparing to prevent protesters in the Gaza Strip from breaking through the border fence into Israel even at the price of shooting live bullets at anyone who tries to do so. Because of intelligence warnings about mass attempts by demonstrators to break through the fence, the IDF is seeking to surprise the protesters with various types of riot dispersal gear. In addition, it has set up additional barbed-wire fences to make it harder to cross into Israel.

But the order to soldiers is to prevent demonstrators from crossing into Israel at any price, including use of live fire. And if any Palestinians do manage to break through the fence and head toward communities near Gaza, the orders are to shoot directly at them with intent to hit, to prevent them from getting into these communities.

On Sunday, Hamas posted pictures and maps on social media showing the shortest routes from the border fence to nearby Israeli communities should any demonstrators make it through.

The army began preparing Sunday for Monday’s demonstrations. It has deployed 11 battalions along the Gaza border, including some that were pulled out of training to handle the protests. The deployment also includes special forces, intelligence units and snipers.

Additional combat battalions and intelligence units will also be deployed to the West Bank.

A senior Southern Command officer predicted that Monday’s demonstrations would be much more violent than those of the previous seven weeks, in part because the events of Monday and Tuesday unite all Palestinians – the formal transfer of the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem followed by Nakba Day, which commemorates the “catastrophe” of Israel’s creation in 1948. Thus unlike in previous weeks, Monday’s demonstrations are not expected to be mainly Hamas events.

Hamas is also busy preparing for Monday. In recent days, the IDF has seen Hamas operatives dismantling the organization’s positions near the fence. The IDF has left these positions alone because they were meant to let Hamas control events along the border. In the army’s view, the dismantlement shows that Hamas is abandoning all restraint and aims to intensify the violent protests.

Israel holds Hamas responsible for everything that happens in Gaza. Army officers warned that if the Palestinians achieve a mass breakthrough, this would not just embarrass the army, it could lead to an escalation and mass casualties – which the IDF wants to avoid.

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