Gazans clash with IDF troops along border as Hamas marks 32 years since founding

Army vehicle hit by molotov cocktail but no injuries to troops; 5 Palestinians said hurt; senior Hamas member: Israeli captives won’t be freed ‘until our prisoners see the light’

Illustrative: Palestinians clash with Israeli troops during along the border with Israel, east of Bureij in the central Gaza Strip, on December 6, 2019. (Mahmud Hams/AFP)
Illustrative: Palestinians clash with Israeli troops during along the border with Israel, east of Bureij in the central Gaza Strip, on December 6, 2019. (Mahmud Hams/AFP)

Several thousand Palestinians protested on the Gaza border Friday, with several hundred rioting and clashing with Israeli forces, as the coastal enclave’s Hamas rulers marked 32 years since the founding of the terror group.

The Hamas-run Gaza health ministry said five Palestinians were hurt in the clashes, which included the hurling of molotov cocktails and other objects at IDF soldiers.

Video shot near the southern city of Khan Younis showed a fire breaking out on the hood of an Israel Defense Forces vehicle after it was apparently struck by a fire bomb.

No soldiers were injured.

Around 2,000 people took part in protests at various spots along the Gaza border, according to Hebrew media reports.

In addition to the border clashes, thousands took part in a pair of rallies in the Gaza Strip to mark the 1987 anniversary of Hamas’s establishment.

Fathi Hammad, a member of the Islamist terror group’s politburo, thanked Hamas fighters who fired rockets at Israel, Channel 13 news reported.

“[Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu’s time is over,” he was quoted saying, in apparent reference to the Israeli premier’s political and legal woes.

Hammad also commented on Israeli captives held by Hamas, following recent reports of efforts to broker a prisoner exchange between Israel and the terror group.

Left to right: Oron Shaul, Hadar Goldin and Avraham Mengistu. (Flash90/The Times of Israel)

“The Israeli soldiers won’t see the light until our prisoners see the light,” Channel 12 quoted him as saying.

Hamas is believed to be holding captive two Israeli citizens — Avraham Abera Mengistu and Hisham al-Sayed — who are said to have entered the Gaza Strip of their own accord in 2014-2015.

It also holds the bodies of Hadar Goldin and Oron Shaul, IDF soldiers killed in the 2014 Gaza war.

“On the issue of prisoners, the enemy’s dawdling won’t help it,” Hammad said.

He warned the armed wing of Hamas would soon unveil a “new chapter in the battle” against Israel, without elaborating.

“Hamas will cut off the hand of anyone who tries to undermine the stability of security in Gaza,” he said. “Hamas will remain a torch of glory and pride for the Palestinians.”

Palestinians attend a rally marking the 32nd anniversary of the founding of the Hamas terror group, in Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip, December 13, 2019. (Said Khatib/AFP)

Friday’s border demonstrations were part of the weekly March of Return protests that began last March and resumed last week after a three-week hiatus following a large-scale battle in November between the IDF and Palestinian Islamic Jihad, the second largest terror group in Gaza.

Ahead of last week’s protests, IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kohavi said Israel had a “special opportunity” to reach a long-term ceasefire with terror groups in the Gaza Strip.

Meeting with mayors of Gaza-adjacent communities, Kohavi indicated that Israel believed it could negotiate an oft-discussed long-term ceasefire agreement with Hamas, which has been the de facto ruler of Gaza since violently overthrowing the internationally recognized Palestinian Authority in 2007.

The army chief said this is due to the success of the IDF’s recent two-day battle with the Islamic Jihad, an operation that was dubbed “Black Belt.” Unlike in previous rounds of fighting, the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, Hamas’s armed wing, stayed on the sidelines.

For more than the past year, Hamas has negotiated a series of unofficial ceasefire understandings with Israel.

The understandings have largely entailed Israel lifting restrictions on the movement of goods and people into and out of Gaza in exchange for Hamas and other terror groups in the coastal enclave maintaining relative quiet in the border region.

However, the informal agreements have not put an end to cross-border violence, as both Israel and terror groups in Gaza have recently participated in several short flareups.

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