The outgoing commander of the Israel Defense Force's Gaza Division said Wednesday that while Hamas is trying to make the demonstrations along the Gaza border appear "spontaneous and popular," it is actually behind the protests.
"In essence, Hamas organizes transportation, obligates participation, pays for it and determines the level of violence," Brig. Gen. Yehuda Fuchs said of the border protests that have been taking place every Friday since the end of March.
Meanwhile Wednesday, the Israeli military said it struck a Hamas outpost in the southern Gaza Strip after incendiary balloons were launched from the area toward Israel.
Fuchs has headed the division for the past two and a half years. In his speech at the swearing-in ceremony of the new division commander, Brig. Gen. Eliezer Toledano, Fuchs said the tunnels from Gaza to Israel were the most challenging task he faced during his military career. He noted that although the challenges in Gaza are numerous, "they do not affect the IDF's training and readiness. If we continue to deal with these challenges or with greater ones, the IDF can handle it for many years to come."
Fuchs' successor served as military secretary to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and as Paratroopers Brigade Commander during Operation Protective Edge in the Gaza Strip. "The division forces will serve as an iron wall and stubbornly defend our citizens with a raised steel fist ready to attack our enemies. No one can stop us from continuing to build our national home," Toledano said.
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The Egyptian security delegation left the Gaza Strip on Wednesday after holding a meeting with representatives of the Palestinian factions in Gaza, including senior Hamas figures.
Senior Islamic Jihad official Hader Habib, who participated in the meeting, said that the delegation would hold talks with Israeli officials as well as with senior Palestinian Authority officials in the coming days. According to Habib, the Egyptian delegation is focusing on two levels – an internal Palestinian reconciliation and calm with Israel.
Habib added that, the head of Egyptian intelligence, General Abbas Kamel, is due to arrive soon in the Gaza Strip and Ramallah.
On Tuesday evening, one Palestinian was killed and five were shot and wounded by live Israeli fire in clashes along the border fence in the central Gaza Strip, according to the Gaza Health Ministry.
The Gaza Health Ministry identified the fatality as 17-year-old Muntaser Mohammed al-Baz.
Three fires reportedly broke out Tuesday in Israeli communities around the Gaza Strip, sparked by incendiary balloons launched from the Strip. Firefighters assisted by the Jewish National Fund and the Israel Nature and Parks Authority took control of all the blazes.