The Times of Israel livebloged Friday’s events as they unfolded.
IDF deploys along Gaza border in anticipation of mass protests
Israel is gearing up for another showdown with Hamas-backed demonstrators on the Gaza border, with the IDF deploying snipers and tanks for the third consecutive week ahead of an expected mass Palestinian protest.
Friday’s protest is the third of what Gaza’s ruling Hamas terror group said would be several weeks of “March of Return” demonstrations, which Hamas leaders say ultimately aim to see the removal of the border and the liberation of Palestine.
Last Friday, about 20,000 Palestinians demonstrated along the Gaza border in what Israel has described as a riot orchestrated by Hamas, and what Palestinians say was supposed to be a peaceful protest. The previous week there were an estimated 30,000 protesters.
Palestinian rioters gather tires and flags near Gaza fence
In the center of the Gaza Strip near the al-Bureij refugee camp, some 50 Palestinian rioters gather tires and flags near the border fence.
The IDF is attempting to disperse the demonstrators.
A larger number of demonstrators are expected to mass near the border fence following Friday prayers.
Hezbollah: Syria crisis won’t escalate as long as Trump, Netanyahu ‘stay sane’
Hezbollah Deputy Secretary-General Naim Qassem speaks in an interview about a possible American military response to the chemical attack in Syria, and rejects the notion that the crisis would escalate into a direct conflict between the United States and Russia.
“The situation does not point to a comprehensive war, as long as Trump and Netanyahu do not lose their sanity,” he tells Lebanese newspaper Al-Akhbar, according to Ynet.
Uganda reportedly considering absorption of 500 asylum seekers
Uganda is reportedly considering the absorption of 500 African asylum seekers currently in Israel, Walla News reports.
Uganda has previously denied any deal with Israel to accept African migrants deported from the Jewish state.
According to an earlier report on Friday, the visas issued by Israel, purportedly on behalf of Uganda, to African asylum-seekers as they are about to leave the country are “totally fake.”
The allegedly fraudulent documents were presented by the state to the High Court of Justice in defense of its plan to deport the migrants in Israel — most of them from Sudan and Eritrea — to third-party countries, Haaretz reports.
The government has until 12 p.m. on Sunday, April 15, to present the High Court of Justice with a finalized plan for the deportation of African migrants.
Russia: Court orders blocking of access to Telegram app
A Russian court has ordered a ban on access to the Telegram messaging service.
According to the official TASS news agency, authorities have filed a lawsuit to limit access to the smartphone application after Telegram refused to grant Russian security services access to confidential user messages.
Saudi aims to pressure rival Iran at Arab League summit
AFP — Saudi Arabia’s push for a tough stand against its arch-rival Iran is expected to dominate an Arab League summit on Sunday as regional tensions grow over the wars in Syria and Yemen.
The fate of Jerusalem will also be on the summit’s agenda, as the United States prepares to move its embassy from Tel Aviv to the city after declaring it the capital of Israel.
Saudi Arabia, which is hosting the yearly summit in the Eastern Province city of Dhahran, is likely to seek Arab support to pile the pressure on Iran, analysts say.
“The Saudis are going to push for a much harsher stance on Iran — not necessarily on the nuclear dossier per se, but on Iranian influence in the Arab countries, particularly Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Yemen,” says Karim Bitar of the Paris-based Institute of International and Strategic Affairs.
At least 8 Palestinians shot and wounded, health ministry in Gaza says
At least eight Palestinians have been shot and wounded in clashes along the Gaza-Israel border on Friday, the Hamas-run health ministry in Gaza says.
Most were injured east of Gaza City, but two were hurt in clashes near Al-Bureij in central Gaza.
Many protesters left for midday prayers but larger numbers are expected to gather in five spots along the border on Friday afternoon.
In northern Gaza, a large Israeli flag was burned, AFP reports.
Lapid: Palestinians are being killed because Hamas places them on the fence
Yesh Atid party Chairman Yair Lapid says Palestinians are being killed because Hamas is placing them along the Gaza border fence and using them as human shields.
“The entity responsible for the humanitarian crisis in Gaza is Hamas and only Hamas, but that does not mean that Israel has no interest in interfering there,” Lapid says.
“There are terror activists among the demonstrators, it is not people without weapons,” he adds, according to Walla News.
As Syria rebels quit Douma, questions linger over detainees, activists
AFP — As Syrian rebels evacuate their holdout town of Douma, hope is dwindling that four iconic activists and hundreds of others suspected to have been kidnapped there will be found alive.
Jaish al-Islam has released 200 detainees as part of an evacuation deal reached Sunday, but the fate of several thousand more is unknown, including four human rights defenders.
Razan Zeitouneh, Wael Hamada, Samira Khalil and Nazem al-Hammadi were abducted by unidentified assailants in December 2013 from the office of a rights group they ran together in the town.
Residents largely blame Jaish al-Islam but the group has denied involvement.
“We’re even more afraid now that Jaish al-Islam has practically handed over Douma to the regime and we haven’t heard anything,” Hamada’s brother Basel tells AFP.
The four played an active role in Syria’s anti-regime uprising since 2011 but were also documenting violations by Jaish al-Islam.
IDF says attempts have been made to damage Gaza fence
The IDF says that there have been violent riots in five locations throughout the Gaza Strip in which thousands of Palestinians have been taking part, adding that a number of attempts have been made to damage and cross the security fence.
The IDF adds in a statement that there were a number of attempted terrorist attacks, including throwing of Molotov cocktails and explosives at soldiers and at the fence.
The army says its forces used riot dispersal methods and live fire in response to the riots.
The fence has not been damaged nor have any Palestinians managed to cross into Israeli territory.
Russia denies blocking access to Telegram app
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Paskov says Russia did not decide to block access to the Telegram messaging application if the company did not comply with Russian law.
“Limiting access was not the goal,” he says, “a compromise could have been possible, but no consensus had been reached.”
Opposition leader Gabbay says Israel must protect its borders
Zionist Union head Avi Gabbay implies that Israel must protect its borders, or else it will not be respected. “If we do not respect our southern border, we will quickly deteriorate into incidents and violence on both sides of the border,” he says.
“Israel has all the justifications in the world to act and prevent Iran from establishing bases that will be used against us, and will upgrade Hezbollah’s missiles to precision missiles.”
Gaza health ministry says 30 Palestinians injured, one critically
The Gazan health ministry says that 30 Palestinians have been injured during clashes with the IDF along the border with Israel.
One of the Palestinians was critically wounded, according to the ministry.
Palestinian protesters in Gaza hurled explosives and firebombs at Israeli troops manning the border, during what the Israel Defense Forces described as “several attempts” to damage the fence between Israel and the Gaza Strip and cross over into Israeli territory.
Thousands of Palestinians are taking part in violent riots in five locations along the length of the border, the army says. In addition to trying to cross the barrier, a number of attacks were carried out, with demonstrators throwing Molotov cocktails and explosives at Israeli soldiers.
UK says Russia spied on Skripals before poisoning
AFP — Russian intelligence was spying on former double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia for at least five years before they were poisoned in a nerve agent attack, Britain’s National Security Adviser Mark Sedwill says in a letter to NATO.
“We have information indicating Russian intelligence service interest in the Skripals, dating back at least as far as 2013, when email accounts belonging to Yulia Skripal were targeted by GRU cyber specialists,” Sedwill writes, referring to Russia’s foreign military intelligence agency.
Macron tells Putin he wants to ‘intensify’ dialogue on Syria
AFP — French President Emmanuel Macron tells his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin during a telephone call Friday he wants to “intensify” talks on bringing peace to Syria, Macron’s office says.
“The president of the Republic said he wanted the dialogue between France and Russia to continue and intensify in order to bring peace and stability to Syria,” the French presidency says after the call, which came as the West ponders possible strikes on Syria in retaliation for a suspected chemical attack.
Ukraine reports first combat death since new truce
AFP — Kiev reports its first combat death since Ukraine agreed to a new truce with Russian-backed rebels in the war-torn east of the country at the end of last month.
“As a result of enemy fire, one of our soldiers was killed (over the past 24 hours),” military spokesman Dmytro Gutsuliak tells journalists.
Another soldier was seriously injured in renewed fighting as the Ukrainian military accused separatist forces of using heavy weaponry, including large-calibre mortars.
Brokered by international monitors, the truce went into effect on March 30 after a string of similar accords have helped lower the level of violence but not fully ended the war.
More than 10,000 people have been killed since the start of a Moscow-backed insurgency in April 2014 which followed Russia’s annexation of Crimea from Ukraine.
IDF says explosive device went off on Palestinian side of Gaza border
An explosive device went off on the Palestinian side of the border fence between Israel and the Gaza Strip, wounding several on the Palestinian side, the IDF Spokesperson’s Office says.
The IDF Spokesperson’s Office adds that around 10,000 Palestinians are participating in riots across five locations throughout the Gaza Strip.
The army says several attempts were made to damage the security barrier, including by using a kite attached to a Molotov cocktail. The kite landed in Palestinian territory as well.
No damage has been caused to the security fence, and no Israeli soldiers have been reported wounded.
Gaza health ministry says hundreds of Palestinians shot, wounded
The Gaza health ministry reports that 701 Palestinians were injured by live ammunition and tear gas during demonstrations along the Strip’s border fence with Israel.
According to the ministry, 16 of those injured were medical personnel or journalists.
Clashes are currently ongoing in five locations near the security fence. Some 10,000 Palestinians are taking part in the demonstrations, the IDF says.
Syria tensions could lead to ‘full-blown military escalation’ says UN chief
AFP — Increasing tensions between world powers could lead to a “full-blown military escalation” in Syria, the UN chief warns.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres urges the Security Council to “act responsibly in these dangerous circumstances.”
Russia says it has proof Britain took part in ‘staged’ Syria chemical attack
AFP — The Russian military says that it has proof that an alleged chemical weapons attack in Syria’s Eastern Ghouta was staged on orders from London.
Russian defence ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov says the military has “proof that testifies to the direct participation of Britain in the organizing of this provocation in Eastern Ghouta.”
He says Britain had told the White Helmets, who act as first responders in rebel-held areas, to fake the suspected chemical attack in the town of Douma.
US believes Assad used chemical weapons at least 50 times
US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley says Washington believes Syrian President Bashar Assad’s regime used chemical weapons at least 50 times during the country’s civil war.
Haley says if the United States and its allies decide to act in Syria, it will be to defend a principle. “All nations and all peoples will be harmed if we allow Assad to make use of chemical weapons normal,” she adds.
Nasrallah: Israel ‘made historic mistake,’ is now in direct conflict with Iran
Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah says the attack on the T-4 air base in Syria, which is attributed to Israel, has placed the Jewish state in direct conflict with Iran.
“The senior officials in Iran will decide what to do, I can not speak for them,” Nasrallah says. “Israelis must know that they have made a historic mistake. They entered a direct conflict with Iran. Iran, is not a small state, not a weak state and not a cowardly state. “
Palestinian reported killed in Gaza clashes with IDF
A Palestinian man was killed in clashes with the IDF along the Gaza border, the health ministry in the Strip says.
The individual who was killed is named as Islam Haraz-Allah, 28.
The ministry reports that 701 Palestinians were injured during the clashes along the border fence, 163 of them from live fire.
Iran drone that entered Israel was carrying explosives for attack, IDF says
An Iranian drone which crossed the northern border and was intercepted by Israeli Air Force helicopters two months ago was carrying explosives and its purpose was to carry out an attack in Israeli territory, the IDF says.
“The Iranian intention was to carry out an attack in the territory of the State of Israel,” an army spokesperson says.
In response to the drone incursion on February 10, Israeli jets attacked the mobile command center from which it was operated.
During the reprisal raid, one of the eight Israeli F-16 fighter jets that took part in the operation was apparently hit by a Syrian anti-aircraft missile and crashed in Israel. The Israeli Air Force then conducted a second round of airstrikes, destroying between a third and half of Syria’s air defenses, according to an IDF spokesperson.
Democrats to Trump: Stop tweeting about possible Syria strikes
AFP — Several Democratic lawmakers upbraid President Donald Trump for using social media to telegraph potential attacks against Syria, warning that his “reckless” and “taunting” language endangers American troops.
Nine members of the House of Representatives, all of them US military veterans, urge the president to immediately halt his provocations, which included tweets this week after an apparent chemical weapons attack in the Syrian town of Douma where the British government estimates up to 75 people were killed.
“As military veterans, we are profoundly concerned about the president’s reckless use of Twitter and other public forums to discuss the use of military force in Syria,” Mike Thompson, Ted Lieu, Seth Moulton and others say in a joint statement.
The group acknowledgeds that deliberate punitive strikes against Syria should be weighed, given the horrors of an attack that the White House blames squarely on the Syrian regime.
But the lawmakers say Trump’s “taunting and flippant language” must stop.
Hamas leader warns ‘armed Palestinian rebellion’ to break out on Nakba Day
A leader in the Hamas terror group warns Israel an armed Palestinian uprising will break out on May 15, when Palestinians mark the Nakba (“catastrophe”) of Israel’s founding.
“Tell Israel to wait until May 15, then the armed Palestinian rebellion will erupt and nothing will be able to stop it. Wave after wave until we meet in Jerusalem,” says Hamas deputy leader in Gaza Khalil al-Hayya, according to the Ynet news site.
Hayya’s comment comes two days after some 10,000 Palestinians took part in violent protests along Israel’s border with Israel as part of the “March of Return” for the third consective week.
Hamas has said the demonstrations will continue until Nakba Day on May 15, the day after the Gregorian calendar date for Israel’s Independence Day.