Though it has sought to portray weeks of violent demonstrations along the Gaza Strip’s border with Israel as popular protests, Hamas has been heavily involved in planning the clashes and provided instructions to participants on desired behavior, Israel’s Hadashot TV news reported Friday.
The terror group disseminated detailed directives via social media ahead of Monday’s violent clashes at the border, the TV report said. These directives went so far as to inform protesters in which Israeli community each terrorist leader would be delivering victory speeches after the protests had achieved their stated goal of breaching the border.
“Ismail Haniyeh will speak in Nahal Oz, Khalil al-Hayya in Kfar Aza and (Palestinian Islamic Jihad leader) Nafed Azzam in Be’eri,” Hadashot quoted the instructions as saying. “After the victory speeches, celebrations will begin throughout Palestine.”
Protesters were told that tractors would seek to bring down the fence, and were urged to arm themselves with “a knife or a handgun” for use after the border was breached, the report said. “Seek to drive (Israeli) snipers from their positions,” the instructions added.
The directives were reportedly accompanied by detailed maps, and included the Israeli communities to which Palestinians were encouraged to rush.
Col. Kobi Heller, the commander of the IDF’s Southern (Gaza) Brigade, told the TV station that this information corresponded with the military’s own material on what has been playing out at the border.
“In the end all the people who come up to the fence definitely do it under Hamas’s direction,” he said.
He noted, however, that Hamas leadership was absent during Monday’s violence. “They didn’t come to the fence on Monday. They were afraid.”
Heller said: “You had thousands of riled up protesters. Someone riled them up. Someone got them to get up as one and charge at the soldiers along the fence.
“By the way,” he said, “if they hadn’t charged like that, our soldiers wouldn’t have done anything.”
Since March 30, tens of thousands of Palestinians have taken part in weekly “March of Return” protests, which Israel says are orchestrated by the Hamas terror group and used as cover for attempted terror attacks and breaches of the border fence.
The violent demonstrations were meant to end on May 15, but Hamas leaders have said they want them to continue.
The deaths of 62 Palestinians during Monday’s violent protests were met with international outrage and calls for an independent investigation of events. The UN’s Human Rights Council on Friday ordered a probe, and a resolution prepared by Kuwait for the UN Security Council urges the deployment of an international force to protect Gazans. Hamas has subsequently admitted that 50 of the dead were members of the terror group. Three others were Islamic Jihad members.
Lt. Col. Akhsan Daksa, a battalion commander in the IDF’s 7th Armored Brigade, told Hadashot snipers were not given carte blanche to fire as they chose. “Not at all,” he said. “There is a very clear method of authorization.”
Daksa called the Palestinian protests on Monday “a violent affair such as I’ve not encountered.”
He added: “I fought in the Second Lebanon War, in Operation Protective Edge (the 2014 war in Gaza). There was violence here like in a battlefield.”
Daksa, who speaks Arabic, said he communicated with some of the protesters over the fence, sometimes “from five meters away.” They told him “We’re on our way to Nahal Oz, to the other communities. Today’s prayers will be held there.”
He said he told demonstrators to head back from the fence. “This won’t help, this isn’t the way,” he recounted telling them.
However, he said, when protesters arrived in droves at the fence and hurled grenades or bombs “there’s no other measure that can work” besides sniper fire. “At that point, there is no other measure.”
Heller added, “If we hadn’t been (guarding) the fence this week, ensuring that Hamas, Islamic Jihad and others met a brick wall of combat soldiers when they came to the fence, this mob would have infiltrated [Israeli residential] communities.”