IDF tank shells Hamas post after cross-border attacks

Around 200 rioters burning tires, throwing explosives toward fence late Friday, ahead of mass protests planned for Saturday

IDF tanks stationed near the Gaza border, March 27, 2019. (Dudi Modan/Flash90)
IDF tanks stationed near the Gaza border, March 27, 2019. (Dudi Modan/Flash90)

An Israeli tank targeted a Hamas post in northern Gaza on Friday night after cross-border attacks earlier in the evening, the military said.

“An Israel Defense Forces tank recently attacked a military post belonging to the Hamas terror group in the northern Gaza Strip, in response to explosives that were thrown at the security fence during the evening,” the army said in a statement.

Around 200 rioters at a few locations in Gaza were burning tires and throwing explosives toward the fence, but most were not close to the border, the Walla news site reported.

The IDF is on war footing ahead of expected Land Day protests planned for the Gaza border on Saturday, with tens of thousands of Palestinians likely to participate in mass demonstrations in the coastal enclave.

This year’s Land Day, which marks the 1976 expropriation of Arab land by Israel, also marks a year since the start of weekly violent protests along the Israel-Gaza border, known as the “March of Return,” which at times have escalated into full-blown exchanges of fire between Israel and Palestinian terror groups in Gaza, most recently earlier this week.

Israel maintains that Hamas, a terror group that seeks to destroy the Jewish state, appropriated the campaign for nefarious purposes, using the civilian protesters as cover for violent military activities.

IDF tanks stationed near the Israeli Gaza border on March 26, 2018. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

According to reports, Hamas is planning a mass transportation operation for Saturday, picking up protesters from 38 locations in the enclave and shuttling them to five sites along the border. Field hospitals have been set up at various points, and medical facilities in the Strip are on an emergency footing.

The IDF on Friday warned Palestinians, on pain of death, not to cross its “red line”: approaching or breaching the security fence.

Through phone calls, messages, public statements and pamphlets dropped from aircraft, the IDF told Palestinians in the Strip that any attempts to break through the border fence will be met with live fire.

The Israeli military’s primary concern in these March of Return protests is that large groups of people will break through the fence, armed with guns, grenades and knives, and either enter one of the Israeli communities located a few hundred meters from the border and attack those inside, or kidnap soldiers stationed along the security fence.

According to the Walla news site, senior IDF commanders are preparing for a variety of scenarios, including the possibility of deterioration to the point of a large-scale ground operation. The IDF deployed three additional brigades to the Gaza Division, along with an artillery battalion, and called up reservists from air defense and other select units.

An Egyptian military intelligence delegation has been working to broker a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas ahead of the protest — shuttling back and forth between Tel Aviv and Gaza — amid fears that clashes along the border could snowball into a larger conflagration.

Hamas is looking for a victory as after 11 years into its rule over the Gaza Strip, the majority of young people in the Strip — approximately 70 percent — are unemployed, electricity is available for just a few hours per day and potable water is scarce.

Palestinian members of the al-Qassam Brigades, the armed wing of the Hamas terror group, attend a rally marking the 31st anniversary of Hamas’s founding, in Gaza City, December 16, 2018. (SAID KHATIB/AFP)

Hamas is hoping for Israel and Egypt to lift their blockade of the Strip, which the two countries maintain is necessary to prevent terror groups from importing weapons into the enclave.

Israel wants an end not only to rocket fire but to all violence along the border, including the riots along the security fence and the airborne incendiary and explosive devices that are regularly flown into Israel — while also denying Hamas a victory.

The result of these negotiation efforts will only likely be seen Saturday. If successful, the demonstrations may still be large, but should be comparatively tame. If not, then mayhem and carnage will be the order of the day.

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