IDF arrests two unarmed Palestinians as they cross into Israel
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IDF arrests two unarmed Palestinians as they cross into Israel

Fresh disturbances reported along Gaza border, with IDF said to open fire at protesters, injuring one

Palestinian protesters demonstrate during clashes with Israeli security forces near the border with Israel, east of Khan Yunis, in the southern Gaza Strip, on April 01, 2018. (AFP PHOTO / SAID KHATIB)
Palestinian protesters demonstrate during clashes with Israeli security forces near the border with Israel, east of Khan Yunis, in the southern Gaza Strip, on April 01, 2018. (AFP PHOTO / SAID KHATIB)

Israeli troops picked up two unarmed Palestinians who crossed the Gaza security fence and entered Israeli territory on Monday, the army said.

The suspects were arrested shortly after they crossed into southern Israel, near the Eshkol region. They were handed over to the Shin Bet security service for questioning.

According to the army, they were not in possession of weapons.

Earlier reports indicated that three Palestinians had infiltrated into Israeli territory, but an army spokesperson said he was only aware of two.

Elsewhere along the Gaza border, several disturbances broke out, Palestinian reports said, with dozens of demonstrators approaching the border. In one case the army opened fire and injured one of the rioters, the Palestinians said.

On Sunday evening, Israeli security forces arrested three unarmed Palestinians who crossed the border from the Gaza Strip into Israel.

The suspects were picked up just after they got past the fence in the southern Gaza Strip, the army said. “No weapon was found in their possession.” They were handed over to the Shin Bet security service for questioning, an army spokesperson said.

There has been a series of infiltrations in recent weeks, with most stopped at the border. However, in the most serious incident on Tuesday, a group of three armed Palestinian men infiltrated into Israeli territory from Gaza, walking more than 20 kilometers (12 miles) into the country, over the course of several hours, before they were arrested outside the Tzeelim army base. They were found to be in possession of grenades and knives.

The army’s failure to immediately realize that there’d been a breach — signs of the infiltration were only found hours after it had happened — prompted Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman to call for a full investigation of the incident.

The concerns were stoked by already heightened tensions in the area over recent deadly clashes between the IDF and Gazan protesters.

On Friday, some 30,000 Palestinians took part in demonstrations along the Gaza border, during which rioters threw rocks and firebombs at Israeli troops on the other side of the fence, burned tires and scrap wood, sought to breach and damage the security fence, and in one case opened fire at Israeli soldiers.

Palestinian sources said that up to 18 were killed. The Gaza health ministry reported that over 1,000 people were injured, more than half by Israeli gunfire and the rest from tear gas and rubber bullets. Those figures could not be independently verified, and Israeli officials said they were inflated.

The Israeli military on Saturday night identified 10 of the Gazans killed as members of Palestinian terrorist groups, and published a list of their names and positions in the organizations. Islamic Jihad named an 11th as one of its members.

The army has remained on high alert even as the violence appeared to abate Friday evening, amid fears of persisting attacks, including infiltration attempts and rocket fire.

Protest organizers have said mass marches would continue until May 15, the 70th anniversary of the establishment of the State of Israel. Palestinians mark that date as their “Nakba,” or catastrophe, when hundreds of thousands left or were forced to leave during the 1948 War of Independence. The vast majority of Gaza’s two million people are their descendants.

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 as a Jewish-majority state. Israel’s position has generally been that Palestinian refugees and their descendants would become citizens of a Palestinian state at the culmination of the peace process, just as Jews who fled or were forced out of Middle Eastern countries by hostile governments became citizens of Israel.

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