Israel Prepares for Possible Gaza Rocket Fire Amid Turbulent Clashes

Less than two weeks after a flare-up, military believes Hamas now seeks a confrontation, albeit a limited one, and could fire projectiles at Israel

Israeli soldiers walk next to an Iron Dome anti-missile system positioned near the city of Ashkelon, Israel May 29, 2018.
\ RONEN ZVULUN/ REUTERS

The Israeli military was preparing Friday for the possibility that Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad would begin firing mortars and rockets when protests along the Gaza-Israel border fence ended. The Israel Defense Forces deployed a significant number of Iron Dome batteries near neighboring communities.

While the IDF has in previous weeks said that Hamas was not interested in a major confrontation, the recent firing of dozens of mortars into Israel has led the military to believe that the Islamist group may seek a limited confrontation that includes the firing of projectiles.

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Some 11,000 people rallied at the fence on Friday – fewer than Hamas hoped would arrive – with the Health Ministry in Gaza reporting a number of fatalities from Israeli live fire. Hamas sought a large turnout, offering organized rides to the fence and $500, provided by Iran, to every family who arrived.

Friday's protests were relatively violent in comparison to previous ones, with five kites and balloons bearing explosives reaching Israel by the evening hours. Some were detonated remotely via cellphone and exploded near Israeli troops.

The military's open-fire regulations remained unchanged. The use of live fire could only be ordered by the commander of a brigade or division.

Armed members of Hamas and Islamic Jihad could be seen among the crowd of protesters, using their weapons to target drones documenting the demonstrations.

Overnight Saturday, the Israeli air force struck 15 Hamas targets in Gaza in response to rockets launched from the enclave. Days earlier, nearly 150 rockets and mortar shells were fired from Gaza. Israel responded with a series of strikes on military sites linked to Hamas and Islamic Jihad.