Hamas on Saturday temporarily deployed its security forces to the Israel-Gaza border in an apparent attempt to prevent Palestinians from approaching the fence. The move came a day after protesters clashed with Israeli soldiers on the border, with one Palestinian reportedly being killed.
Hamas reportedly coordinated with Israel through Egyptian intermediaries so that its unarmed policemen could operate in the area adjacent to the border fence without risk of Israeli fire. Neither the IDF Spokesperson nor the Defense Ministry commented as to whether Israel coordinated with Hamas through Egypt.
According to Channel 2, Palestinian protesters approached the border fence on Saturday for the second time in two days, and IDF soldiers fired warning shots in the air. Hamas security forces, standing opposite their Israeli counterparts across the border, stopped Palestinians protesters from clashing with Israeli forces.
Security forces “have been deployed along the Gaza Strip border to preserve the implementation of the truce,” Hamas Interior Ministry spokesperson Islam Shahwan told AFP.
Palestinian opposition groups in the Gaza Strip used the pictures of Hamas policemen pushing Palestinian protesters back as ammunition against the ruling Islamist group, pejoratively referring to them as “Israel’s border patrol.”
On Friday, some 300 Palestinians approached the Israel-Gaza border fence at several locations in southern Gaza and tried to cut through it and cross into Israel, according to the IDF. Protesters hurled rocks at Israeli troops, and IDF soldiers fired warning shots in response.
Israel reportedly accused Hamas of sending the protesters to provoke an Israeli response, according to Channel 2. Hamas, in turn, charged that the incident violated the ceasefire agreement.
Soldiers fired warning shots in the air to distance the Palestinians from the fence, but after they attempted to cross into Israel, troops fired at their legs, the military said. It also said a Palestinian infiltrated into Israel in the course of the unrest, but he was returned to Gaza.
A Palestinian health official said Israeli troops shot dead a 20-year-old Palestinian man and wounded 19 people as crowds surged toward the border fence, the first violence since a truce between Israel and Gaza’s Hamas rulers took hold some 36 hours earlier.
According to one version of events, the Palestinians who neared the border fence were agricultural workers. According to another report, the Palestinians were on their way to prayers. A family member of the man reportedly killed told Reuters that the 20-year-old had attempted to place a Palestinian flag on the fence.