The Israeli Air Force on Thursday dropped flyers across the Gaza Strip calling on Palestinians not to take part in violent protests along the security fence, ahead of a mass demonstration expected near the border.
The military expects thousands of Gaza residents to riot on Friday as part of the “March of Return,” a series of demonstrations supported by the Hamas terror group that rules Gaza and openly seeks to destroy Israel.
This week, the march also commemorates Naksa Day, the anniversary of Israel’s victory against Arab armies in the 1967 Six Day War, which was officially marked on Tuesday. Mass protests were originally expected on that day, but they were delayed by organizers until Friday.
In a statement, the army said it is “ready and prepared” for a number of scenarios along the fence and is “determined to protect the citizens of Israel and its sovereignty.”
The army used the flyers to tell Gazans that Hamas is trying to use them and their children for its own political goals and to create “anarchy.”
“A smart person is a person who considers the consequences of their actions ahead of time and decides on the course of action in which the benefit exceeds the damage,” it said. “If you consider that on the subject of nearing or crossing the fence, you will conclude that it is ill-advised and even harmful.”
“For your own benefit, it is better for you to not take part in violent demonstrations along the border or cross it. And don’t let Hamas turn you into a tool for its narrow interests,” the army wrote on the flyers.
“Behind those interests stands Shiite Iran, with its goal of setting fire to the region for its own religious and tribal interests,” the army writes.
Earlier Thursday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu defended Israel’s use of live fire against protesters and said Hamas wants the Palestinian demonstrators to die.
Netanyahu was questioned on the IDF’s response to the Gaza protests by an audience member at a London event hosted by think tank Policy Exchange.
“We tried water cannons, we tried tear gas and none worked,” the premier replied, according to the Haaretz daily, adding that “given our record, we probably will figure out something.”
“The last thing we want is violence [or] confrontation,” he said.
When asked to further elaborate, Netanyahu said that “we tried other ways, it doesn’t work. Hamas wants them to die.”
The weekly massive protests have been held on the border since March 30, including violent riots, attempts to breach the security fence and sending hundreds of flaming kites and balloons over the border, starting countless fires that have destroyed large swaths of land.
Over 120 Gazans have been killed, including over 60 on May 14, the day the US moved its embassy. At least half of those killed since the protests began in March have been identified as members of Hamas or other terror groups.
AFP contributed to this report.