The IDF on Saturday morning apprehended two young boys from Gaza who managed to cross the border fence, with one of them in possession of a knife.
The army said it briefly interrogated the eight-year-olds before sending them back into the coastal enclave through the Erez crossing.
During their questioning, the children said that they had been hoping to get caught and serve time in Israeli prison, according to a Hebrew IDF statement.
In an English tweet, the IDF said that “these eight-year-old children were forced to cross into Israel with a knife. We returned them safely to Gaza.”
These 8 year old children were forced to cross into Israel with a knife. We returned them safely to Gaza. pic.twitter.com/IWRYjWWUnZ
— Israel Defense Forces (@IDF) March 30, 2019
Their arrests came as mass protests were commencing throughout the coastal enclave to mark the one-year anniversary of the “March of Return” border protests, which coincided with Palestinians’ Land Day.
Over 40,000 Palestinians took part in the rallies at the Gaza border Saturday afternoon, with some rioters throwing grenades and explosives toward the security fence as well as lobbing rocks at troops and burning tires.
The army said soldiers responded with “riot dispersal means” and live fire in accordance with IDF regulations, noting that most Palestinians attending the one-year anniversary of the “March of Return” protests remained at a distance from the border.
The coastal enclave’s Hamas-run health ministry said two 17-year-old Palestinians were killed during the protests, while at least 300 were injured. Most of those hurt were lightly wounded, but three were said to suffer critical injuries. A third Palestinian was killed in the early morning during a riot near the border, before the main protest began.
Saturday’s protests saw no major attempts to breach the fence, and despite the high turnout the rally remained on the level of some of the previous weekly protests this past year.
IDF spokesman Ronen Manelis said Hamas, the terror group that rules Gaza, had “operated with restraint not seen in the past year.”
He said Israeli forces had observed hundreds of Hamas members wearing orange vests spread out between the crowd and the fence, preventing the masses from rushing toward the border.
An Israeli diplomatic official said Israel was satisfied with Egyptian mediation efforts that had contributed to the relatively calm Land Day protests in Gaza. He also credited “Israeli policy that included strong air force attacks, severe warnings to Hamas and the massive deployment of the IDF.”