Ahead of planned mass riots, Israel warns Gazans: ‘Don’t be Hamas’s puppets’
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'You deserve a better government, a better future'

Ahead of planned mass riots, Israel warns Gazans: ‘Don’t be Hamas’s puppets’

IDF drops leaflets telling Palestinians the terror group is endangering their lives, stealing their money; army ignites tire piles along border to prevent their use by protesters

Palestinian protesters during clashes with Israeli forces along the border with the Gaza Strip, east of Gaza City, on May 11, 2018. (Abed Rahim Khatib/Flash90)
Palestinian protesters during clashes with Israeli forces along the border with the Gaza Strip, east of Gaza City, on May 11, 2018. (Abed Rahim Khatib/Flash90)

Israeli military aircraft dropped leaflets over the Gaza Strip early Monday morning warning Palestinians to keep away from the fence separating the coastal enclave from Israel, the IDF said, ahead of mass demonstrations slated for later in the day.

“A few minutes ago, IDF jets once again distributed leaflets warning against approaching the security fence, attempting to sabotage it or to carry out terror attacks,” the army’s spokesperson office tweeted.

The Arabic leaflets also told residents of the coastal enclave that the Hamas terror group which rules the strip was endangering their lives.

“Hamas is trying to hide its many failures by endangering your lives,” the leaflets said. “At the same time, Hamas is stealing your money and using it to dig tunnels at your expense.”

One leaflet urged residents, “Don’t be puppets in the hands of Hamas.”

The message from Israel was that the people of Gaza deserve better.

“You deserve a better government and a better future,” the leaflets read. “The IDF is warning you against approaching the security fence.”

The last line was a strong warning to keep away from the border. “Do not approach the security fence and do not participate in Hamas’s life-threatening farce,” the army said.

Meanwhile the army fired at and ignited piles of tires prepared by demonstrators neat the border, Hadashot news reported, in order to burn them prematurely and prevent demonstrators from using them later to create a smokescreen.

The IDF is gearing up for fierce “March of Return” protests along the Gaza security fence, with more than 100,000 Palestinians expected to take part, and potentially as many as 200,000, something that would indicate a major victory for the Hamas terrorist group, which rules Gaza and has co-opted for its own ends what were originally slated to be weeks of nonviolent protests.

The protests are set for Monday to coincide with the move of the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

The army’s primary fear during the expected riots is that dozens or hundreds of Palestinians, including Hamas members, will manage to break through the Gaza security fence and wreak havoc in one of the Israeli communities on the other side, attacking residents, starting fires, and destroying buildings.

The military believes Hamas will focus its energies on this style of mass, chaotic attack, but the IDF is also preparing for more direct armed combat, including attacks on troops along the border, or kidnappings of IDF soldiers, as has happened along the Gaza border in years past.

On Sunday, the military released video footage showing Hamas removing its positions along the border, which the army believes is meant to signal that the rioters will not be restrained by the ruling terror group.

It also warned Hamas seeks to destroy homes, torch farmland and massacre “innocent men, women, and children.”

The past seven Fridays have seen thousands of Gazans taking part in the “March of Return” rallies.

During these violent protests, Palestinians hurl rocks and Molotov cocktails at IDF troops, roll burning tires at the security fence or try to pull it down with chains. Bombs have been detonated against troops as well. Increasingly, demonstrators have been flying kites laden with containers of burning fuel to start fires in Israel.

Israel’s Channel 10 news showed clips Sunday from what it said were new Hamas videos in which young Gazans were urged into battle against Israel: “Youngsters of the Palestinian revolt… Jerusalem is waiting for your revolution. So show it your firm determination in battle,” one clip urged.

Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh traveled to Cairo ahead of the protests to meet with Egyptian intelligence officers, who were expected to call on him to keep the demonstrations from getting out of control.

The IDF, however, is not relying on Egypt’s persuasive powers and has dispatched two additional brigades to take positions along the Gaza border ahead of the anticipated riots. A third brigade was also deployed to the West Bank, the army said.

“The IDF’s preparation includes the additional deployment of a number of combat battalions to the Gaza border, special forces, intelligence collection units, and snipers. In addition, the Central Command will also receive additional combat battalions and intelligence collection teams as reinforcement,” the army said on Sunday.

Additional soldiers have also been deployed to provide extra security to Israeli communities near the Gaza border.

Military Intelligence does not believe that Hamas is currently interested in war, but expects that the coming days may see significant violence at the Gaza border.

According to Israeli military assessments, Hamas is in dire straits, facing the most significant pressure since seizing control of Gaza over a decade ago. The terror organization sees the “March of Return” riots as a way to buy time.

The “March of Return” gets its name from the “right of return” demanded by millions of Palestinians to go back to their ancestral villages, something no Israeli government would accept, as it would effectively mean the end of Israel as a Jewish state.

According to the Hamas health ministry, around 50 Palestinians have been killed since protests and clashes began along the Gaza border on March 30, and hundreds of others have been wounded from gunfire. Hamas acknowledged that five of its terrorists were among the fatalities after the first Friday demonstration, but has since refrained from acknowledging whether its men are among the dead. Israel has identified other fatalities as members of terrorist groups. Israel says it only opens fire when necessary to stop infiltrations, damage to the fence, and attacks.

Initially, the IDF believed that these protests would reach their peak with Nakba Day on May 15, but Military Intelligence assessments now indicate that Hamas will seek to “piggyback” on the spectacle of Monday’s US Embassy move in order to draw international attention to their cause.

The officer from the Coordinator of the Government Activities in the Territories unit said Sunday that Hamas has recently taken steps to increase the stress on Gaza residents, most recently by barring Gaza fisherman from working beginning on Monday.

But more dramatically, during the latest border protests on Friday, the COGAT officer said Hamas members directed rioters to destroy and set fire to key parts of the Kerem Shalom Crossing, the main, often sole, passage for commercial goods and humanitarian aid into and out of the Gaza Strip. Gas lines were trashed and tens of millions of shekels of damage was caused.

 

An Islamist terror group, Hamas violently took control of Gaza from Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah party in 2007, two years after Israel withdrew its military and civilian presence from the Strip. Israel and Egypt maintain a security blockade of Gaza. Israel says this is vital to prevent Hamas — which has fought three rounds of conflict against Israel since seizing Gaza, firing thousands of rockets into Israel and digging dozens of attack tunnels under the border — from importing weaponry.

At previous peace talks, the Palestinians have always demanded, along with sovereignty in the West Bank, Gaza, East Jerusalem and the Old City, a “right of return” to Israel for Palestinian refugees who left or were forced out of Israel when it was established. The Palestinians demand this right not only for those of the hundreds of thousands of refugees who are still alive — a figure estimated in the low tens of thousands — but also for their descendants, who number in the millions.

No Israeli government would ever be likely to accept this demand since it would spell the end of Israel’s Jewish majority.

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