After Violent Week Ends in Cease-fire, Israel Braces for New Wave of Protests on Gaza Border

'March of Return' organizers call for mass participation in demonstrations. The IDF believes Hamas is trying to make a distinction between recent escalation and protests

A Palestinian woman walks through black smoke from burning tires during a protest on the Gaza Strip's border with Israel, Monday, May 14, 2018. The Islamic militant group Hamas that rules Gaza, and is leading the rallies, says protests will continue until a blockade, in place since it took over Gaza in 2007, is broken. (AP Photo/Khalil Hamra)
Khalil Hamra/AP

The Israeli military is preparing for the continuation on Friday of demonstrations along the Gaza border fence. Following the cease-fire announced by Hamas, the IDF believes the group is trying to make a distinction between the violent escalation in the area earlier this week and the protests.

A senior official in the IDF's Southern Command emphasized Thursday that the military's protocol along the fence remain unchanged and that protesters will not be allowed to cross the fence. In order to try and prevent casualties, orders to open fire are to be given only by commanders of a brigade or division.  

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Organizers of the “March of Return” in Gaza have called for mass participation in the protests on Friday. 

Daoud Shihab, one of the organizers of the Gaza march, told journalists in Gaza that buses will carry the participants in the afternoon to the tent encampments near the border fence. Organizers expect a large turnout because it is the month of the Ramadan fast.

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Protests along the Gaza-Israel border fence, May 25, 2018.
Eliyahu Hershkovitz

According to Shihab, protesters will be more cautious than before in light of the military escalation in Gaza earlier this week. "We are cautious because we understand that Israel, out of anger and disappointment about the marches' success, will attempt an escalation and will increase its shooting towards the young people," Shihab said. "We do not want the Palestinian youth to be a target and for the rage to be taken out on them."

A demonstration is also planned in Haifa for Friday evening under the slogan "From Gaza to Haifa, a pact of blood and shared fate." Similar to a demonstration two weeks ago in which 21 people were arrested, the initiative comes mostly from young people and is not being organized by the major institutions of the Arab community in Israel, such as the Joint List and the Higher Arab Monitoring Committee. 

Since the confrontations along the border of May 14, the number of participants has fallen dramatically, and Hamas and other Palestinian factions have set June 5 as the date for a march by tens of thousands to mark 51 years since the Six-Day War, known as Naksa Day by the Palestinians.

The Palestinian Health Ministry in Gaza has updated its figures and says 118 people have died in the marches, after a 23-year-old Gaza resident succumbed Thursday to the gunshot wounds he suffered on May 14.

On Thursday, Physicians for Human Rights sent a shipment of medicines and medical equipment worth 400,000 shekels ($112,000) to Gaza. The shipment included 10 hospital beds for the intensive care wards in Gaza’s public hospitals, and dozens of types of equipment and drugs whose supplies have run out in the Gazan Health Ministry’s warehouses.

The equipment was bought with money from donations collected by the group in recent weeks from Israelis. Next week a PHR delegation of 14 doctors is expected to enter Gaza over the weekend to provide medical aid to the Palestinian health system. The delegation includes general and pulmonary surgeons, orthopedists, pediatricians, internal medicine specialists, neurologists, gastroenterologists and mental health experts. The physicians will do surgery, examine patients and help train Palestinian medical staff.