Israel Braces for Potentially Explosive Gaza Protests After Tense Week at Border

Israeli military spokesman warns Hamas to restrain Islamic Jihad and keep demonstrations in check after three incidents of projectile fire ended a period of calm

A Palestinian protester uses a slingshot to hurl stones during clashes with Israeli forces near the fence along the border with Israel in the Gaza Strip on August 16, 2019.
MAHMUD HAMS / AFP

Israel is bracing for explosive protests at the Gaza border on Friday after a week of tensions that saw three incidents of rocket fire from the Strip and retaliatory airstrikes carried out by the Israeli military.

The army believes that Hamas will be working to control the protests, but it is preparing for the possibility of provocations that could cause the demonstrations to escalate. The army has been instructed to exercise restraint in the use of live fire.

A senior member of the March of Return organizing committee said on Friday they have deployed inspectors in areas of friction to prevent people from approaching the fence. 

The military's Arabic-language spokesman warned Hamas in a Facebook post on Thursday that attacks on Israel by Islamic Jihad were endangering efforts to improve civilian life in the enclave. In his post, Lt. Col. Avichay Adraee urged Gaza's rulers to keep violence in check.

>> Read more: With Gaza-Israel Border incidents, Hamas trapped between push for calm and public thirst for resistance | Analysis

Meanwhile, the army said Thursday overnight a Palestinian who was launching grenades at Israeli soldiers in northern Gaza near Israel's border was shot by the force. His condition remains unclear.

Ashraf al-Qudra, a spokesman of the Health Ministry in Gaza, told reporters that one pedestrian suffered a leg injury and another young man was critically wounded by Israeli soldiers' gunfire in eastern Gaza City.

Palestinian ambulances and rescue teams arrived at the border after coordinating their entrance into the area with the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the Israeli army, and managed to evacuate the wounded man.

Since August 1, nine Palestinian militants have been killed in four infiltration attempts from the Gaza Strip into Israel, while one Israeli army officer and two soldiers have been injured on the Gaza border.

The committee leading the weekly Friday protests said that they do not plan a drastic escalation in tactics, despite Hamas' calls for mass participation.

Committee member Talal Abu Zarifeh told Haaretz that the resumption of what are considered to be severe tactics – like launching incendiary balloons, loud nighttime demonstrations aimed at frightening nearby Israeli residents, and urging crowds to approach the border en masse during the daytime protests – had been discussed, but that there has been no decision to turn to these methods this Friday.

Wednesday saw the third incident of projectile fire from Gaza in less than a week, shattering weeks of a tense calm along the volatile Gaza-Israel border.

In addition, there have been multiple attempts by armed Gazans to breach the border fence since the beginning of the month.  

On Monday, Palestinian factions in Gaza warned Israel that the Strip is "a volcano that is about to erupt" and that "Israel is continuing to play with fire."

DPA contributed to this report.