Israeli security forces have recently noticed Hamas sending children as young as eight years old to the front lines of protests along the Gaza-Israel border, the Israel Defense Forces said on Thursday.
They have also lately heard unidentified operatives on loudspeakers promising children at the border NIS 300 ($83) if they get injured, the army said, confirming a previous unsourced report on the Kan public broadcaster.
A Hamas official in Gaza did not respond to a request for comment about whether the terror group sent children as young as eight to the front lines of the demonstrations. He also did not answer whether it had promised kids money for sustaining injuries.
Since March 30, the Hamas terror group, Palestinian political factions, civil society groups and others have organized weekly protests in the border region, which have included many violent acts, including the lobbing of rocks and Molotov cocktails as well as the sabotage of the security fence between Israel and Gaza.
They have said the protests aim to achieve the return of Palestinian refugees and their descendants to lands that are now part of Israel, and to pressure the Jewish state to lift its restrictions on the movement of people and goods into and out of the coastal enclave.
Israeli officials hold that the return of Palestinian refugees and their descendants would destroy Israel’s Jewish character. They also maintain that the restrictions on movement are in place to prevent Hamas and other terrorist groups from smuggling weapons into the Strip.
Hamas, which violently seized control of Gaza in 2007 from the Fatah-dominated Palestinian Authority, is a terror group that seeks to destroy Israel.
Hazem Qassim, a Hamas spokesman, said in April 2018 the terror group had made payouts of $200 and $500 to Palestinians moderately and critically wounded in the protests, respectively. However, Qassim did not clarify at the time whether Hamas would continue to make payments to injured Palestinians.
Since they started last year, some 3,000 children have been injured in the protests, an official in the Hamas-run Health Ministry said in a phone call.
Over the past week, many Palestinian children have been wounded in clashes at night with Israeli security forces, the official added.
On February 10, groups of young Palestinians returned to clashing with the IDF at night in the border region after months of inactivity.
The groups operating at night have burned tires, set off explosive devices, shined lasers at Israeli soldiers across the border to blind them, and attempted to breach the security fence.