IDF shoots, arrests Palestinian damaging Gaza fence

Knife found in suspect’s possession; in separate incident, group of young men reportedly drag away portion of a secondary security fence near Khan Younis

Judah Ari Gross is The Times of Israel's religions and Diaspora affairs correspondent.

Illustrative. Palestinian protesters demonstrate and burn tires near the border with Israel in the Gaza Strip, as seen from the Israeli side of the border, on April 13, 2018. (Sliman Khader/Flash90)
Illustrative. Palestinian protesters demonstrate and burn tires near the border with Israel in the Gaza Strip, as seen from the Israeli side of the border, on April 13, 2018. (Sliman Khader/Flash90)

Israeli troops on Thursday shot a Palestinian man, injuring him, as he attempted to damage the security fence around the northern Gaza Strip, in the latest incident along the tense border, the army said.

The soldiers arrested the suspect and provided him with medical treatment, according to the Israel Defense Forces.

“A wire-cutter and knife were found in the suspect’s possession,” the army said.

He was taken to Beersheba’s Soroka Medical Center by helicopter in serious condition, with a gunshot wound to the knee, according to a hospital spokesperson.

“He is being treated now in the trauma center,” she said.

In addition to this incident in northern Gaza, a group of Palestinian youths on Thursday morning dragged away a portion of a secondary barrier set up by the IDF in the buffer zone between southern Gaza and the border with Israel, the Palestinian Ma’an news reported.

Illustrative. Palestinians pull barbed wire from the border fence with Israel during weekly Friday clashes, in Rafah in southern Gaza Strip, on April 20, 2018. (AFP Photo/Said Khatib)

According to the outlet, the young men brought the barbed wire back to their town — Khusa’a, east of Khan Younis — apparently as some kind of trophy.

An army spokesperson said she was “unaware” of the incident.

In a bid to keep Gazans away from the main security fence, the IDF set up a number of secondary barriers, in the form of coils of barbed wire, in the buffer zone between the Strip and the Israeli border.

The border area has seen a significant increase in the levels of violence in recent weeks, as Gazans have been participating in often violent “March of Return” demonstrations, which began on March 30 and are due to continue through mid-May.

Thursday’s two border incidents came a day after dozens of acres of Israeli agricultural fields and grasslands were set on fire by a kite flown across the border from Gaza carrying a container full of burning fuel.

This arson-by-kite has become a primary tactic in the “March of Return” protests, one made particularly dangerous in recent days in light of hot, dry, and windy weather that helps fires spread more quickly.

Palestinians hold a kite adorned with a swastika that is carrying a bombnear the border with Israel east of Gaza City, on April 20, 2018. (AFP Photo/Mohammed Abed)

On Sunday, six Palestinians in three separate incidents in southern Gaza tried to cross the security fence or succeeded in doing so, including in one case where improvised explosives were thrown at Israeli troops, according to the army.

IDF soldiers opened fire at four of the six suspects, killing three of them. The other three Palestinians were arrested and handed over to the Shin Bet security service for questioning.

The mass “March of Return” protests are being encouraged by Gaza’s rulers, the terror group Hamas, whose leaders say their goal is to erase the border and liberate Palestine.

A Palestinian demonstrator uses a slingshot to hurl stones towards Israeli security forces near the southern Gaza Strip town of Khan Younis during the fifth straight Friday of mass demonstrations and clashes along the Gaza-Israel border on April 27, 2018. (AFP Photo/Said Khatib)

Last Friday, four Palestinians were killed and over 300 hurt during a particularly violent demonstration along the border, which included a large-scale rush of the security fence.

On Thursday morning, the Hamas-run Gaza health ministry reported that another Palestinian, 19-year-old Anas Shawqi Abu-Aser, had died of wounds sustained during last week’s riot.

This brought the casualty count in the border clashes to 45 Palestinian dead and over 1,500 injured by live fire since March 30, according to the Hamas health ministry.

These protests were originally described by their Palestinian organizers as nonviolent, but Hamas later took charge of them. Rioters have burned tires, hurled firebombs and rocks at Israeli troops, and repeatedly attempted to sabotage the security fence.

Israeli troops have used both less-lethal weapons and live fire to drive back protesters, prompting international — and, to a lesser extent, domestic — accusations of excessive force.

The Israeli military maintains that its use of live rounds is within the boundaries of Israeli and international law.

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