The Times of Israel liveblogged Friday’s developments as they unfolded.
Thousands of Palestinians protest near Gaza security fence
Thousands of Gazans are demonstrating near the security fence with Israel as a six-week protest in which Gazans plan to set up camp near the barriers gets underway.
Dubbed the “March of Return,” the protest is backed by Gaza’s ruling regime, the Hamas terror group, and marks Land Day, when Palestinians commemorate the Israeli government’s expropriation of Arab-owned land in the Galilee on March 30, 1976, and ensuing demonstrations in which six Arab Israelis were killed.
The camp protest comes amid rising tensions as the United States prepares to move its embassy in Israel to Jerusalem in May.
Today is also the eve of the week-long Passover holiday.
Hamas leader: This is the beginning of the Palestinians’ return to all of Palestine
Friday’s demonstrations mark the beginning of the Palestinians’ return to all “Palestine,” Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh said in a speech at the scene of the mass protests in the Gaza Strip.
“We are here to declare today that our people will not agree to keep the right of return only as a slogan,” he said. Haniyeh said that the March of Return was also aimed at sending a message to US President Donald Trump that the Palestinians will not give up their right to Jerusalem and “Palestine.” There is no solution without the right of return, he added.
The Palestinians “will never recognize the Zionist entity and will never give up on Palestinian land, and on Jerusalem; [the city] is ours and there is no solution [to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict] without the ‘right of return,'” Haniyeh said, according to a Hebrew translation by the Walla news site.
Haniyeh was speaking during a mass demonstration along the Gaza security fence with Israel, ahead of a planned six-week tent protest. Dubbed the “March of Return,” it coincides with Land Day, when Palestinians commemorate the Israeli government’s expropriation of Arab-owned land in the Galilee on March 30, 1976, and ensuing demonstrations in which six Arab Israelis were killed.
At previous peace talks, the Palestinians have always demanded, along with sovereignty in the West Bank, Gaza, East Jerusalem and the Old City, a “right of return” to Israel for Palestinian refugees who left or were forced out of Israel when it was established. The Palestinians demand this right not only for those of the hundreds of thousands of refugees who are still alive — a figure estimated in the low tens of thousands — but also for their descendants, who number in the millions.
No Israeli government would ever be likely to accept this demand since it would spell the end of Israel as a Jewish-majority state. Israel’s position is that Palestinian refugees and their descendants would become citizens of a Palestinian state at the culmination of the peace process, just as Jews who fled or were forced out of Middle Eastern countries by hostile governments became citizens of Israel.
IDF declares area around Israeli side of Gaza fence a closed military zone
The army declares the area around the Israeli side of the Gaza border to be a closed military zone, forbidding civilians from getting close without army permission.
The order comes as Israeli security forces prepare for mass protests along the Gaza security fence, during which Israeli defense officials fear that Palestinians might try to break through the barrier and enter Israeli territory.
— Judah Ari Gross
At least 45 Gazans said injured in mass unrest near Israel fence
The Palestinian Red Crescent is reporting that at least 45 Gazans have been wounded by rubber bullets near the border with Israel during a mass demonstration underway near the security fence.
Thousands of Gazans are taking part in a mass protest, dubbed the “March of Return,” kicking off a six-week camp demonstration against the US plan to relocate its Israeli embassy to Jerusalem.
Second Palestinian said killed in protest along Gaza security fence
A second Palestinian man has reportedly been killed during a mass protest along the security fence between Israel and Gaza.
Earlier Friday, the Gaza health ministry said a Palestinian farmer was killed by Israeli tank fire near Khan Yunis in the southern Strip. The man was identified by the Hamas-run ministry as Omar Wahid Sammour, 27.
Witnesses said he was working his land near the border when the shells hit. According to the army, “two suspects approached the perimeter fence… and engaged in suspicious behavior on the ground alongside it. In response, an IDF unit fired at them with a tank.”
Palestinians say third Gazan killed in border clashes
A Palestinian was shot dead by Israeli troops in a clash on the Gaza border on Friday, the Hamas-run health ministry says in a statement.
Mohammed Najjar, 25, was shot in the stomach in a clash east of Jabaliya in the northern Gaza Strip, according to the statement.
He is said to be the third Palestinian killed by Israeli fire in Gaza on Friday.
— with AFP
Over 100 Palestinians said injured in clashes along Israel-Gaza border
Palestinian sources say that more than 100 protesters have been injured in clashes with Israeli troops along the Gaza border.
Around half of the injuries were sustained in clashes near Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip. Another 51 were injured in clashes east of Gaza City, in northern Gaza Strip.
According to the sources, most of the protesters were injured live fire and rubber bullets.
— Khaled Abu Toameh
IDF: 17,000 Palestinians taking part in Gaza border protests
The Israel Defense Forces estimates that 17,000 Palestinians are taking part in the demonstrations along the Gaza border, spread out among the five main protest sites.
The army says some protesters are lighting tires on fire and throwing Molotov cocktails and rocks at IDF troops on the other side of the border.
The military maintains that it will not allow Palestinian protesters to “violate Israel’s sovereignty” by crossing the security fence.
— Judah Ari Gross
Fourth Palestinian said killed in Gaza border clashes
A fourth Palestinian was shot dead by Israeli troops in a clash on the Gaza border on Friday, an official from the Hamas-run health ministry says.
Mohammed Abu Omar, was shot in clashes earlier in the day, and succumbed to his wounds this afternoon, the official says in a tweet.
He is said to be the fourth Palestinian killed by Israeli fire in Gaza on Friday.
Palestinians clashing with IDF forces in Hebron, Ramallah
Dozens of Palestinian protesters are said to be clashing with IDF troops at the checkpoint outside the West Bank settlement of Beit El, near the Palestinian city of Ramallah.
According to the Ynet news site, demonstrators are burning tires and throwing rocks at Israeli security forces at the Beit El checkpoint.
Israeli soldiers are also clashing with Palestinian protesters in the Bab Zawiya neighborhood of Hebron, according to the report.
Hamas health ministry: 365 injured in border clashes, 10 seriously
The Gaza health ministry says 365 Palestinians are hurt in the deadly border clashes, including 10 that are in serious condition.
The Hamas-run ministry says the injured were protesters hit by live bullets and rubber-coated steel pellets, while others were overcome by tear gas. It did not provide a breakdown.
Four Palestinians have been killed throughout Friday during mass protests along the Israel-Gaza border.
Hamas says fifth Palestinian killed in Gaza protests
The Hamas-run Gaza health ministry says a fifth Palestinian was killed by Israeli gunfire during violent protests along the security fence in the northern Gaza Strip.
He is identified as 16-year-old Ahmed Ibrahim Odeh.
The ministry says that in total some 370 Palestinians have been injured mostly from tear gas and rubber bullets, but a small number were also said wounded by live fire.
— Judah Ari Gross
IDF says 7-year-old girl sent across Gaza border to confront soldiers
The army says that a 7-year-old Palestinian girl was sent to cross the Gaza security fence into Israel.
“When the IDF troops realized it was a girl, they picked her up and made sure that she could get back to her parents safely,” the army says.
The military says the girl was sent by the Hamas terrorist group, which rules the Gaza Strip.
“Hamas cynically uses women and children, send them to the fence and endangering their lives,” the army says.
— Judah Ari Gross
Hamas: Sixth Gazan shot dead by IDF in border clashes
The Hamas-run Gaza healthy ministry reports that a sixth Palestinian was killed by the IDF during violent protests along the security fence.
The ministry says that in total approximately 500 people have been injured, mostly from tear gas and rubber bullets. A smaller number were hit by live gunfire.
— Judah Ari Gross
IDF general: Terrorist groups using border protests to launch attacks
The head of Israel’s Southern Command, Maj. Gen. Eyal Zamir, accuses terrorist groups of trying to carry out attacks against Israeli soldiers and civilians during the protests along the Gaza security fence.
“We have identified attempts to carry out terror attacks using the protests as cover,” Zamir says in a statement.
“We encourage civilians not to approach the fence and we are sending an official warning to Hamas, which is responsible for everything that happens in the Strip and the consequences thereof,” he says.
— Judah Ari Gross
Seventh Palestinian said killed in Gaza border clashes
The Hamas-run Gaza health ministry says a seventh Palestinian was shot dead by Israeli troops during violent protests along the border.
He is identified as Mahmoud Sa’di Rahmi.
The ministry also says that in total some 550 Palestinians have been injured in the clashes, mostly from tear gas and rubber bullets, but a small number were also said wounded by live fire.
IDF: 20,000 Palestinians taking part in Gaza border protests
The army says 20,000 Palestinians are taking part in the protests at six main locations along the Gaza security fence.
Rioters are setting tires on fire and throwing Molotov cocktails and rocks at Israeli soldiers on the other side of the border, the army says.
The Palestinian health ministry says over 500 Palestinians have been hurt by live fire, rubber-coated steel pellets or tear gas fired by Israeli forces at several locations along the fence. The ministry did not provide a breakdown.
Maj. Gen. Eyal Zamir, commander of the IDF’s Southern Command, which includes the border, says the army was “identifying attempts to carry out terror attacks under the camouflage of riots.”
He urged Gaza residents to stay away from the border, and held Hamas responsible for any violence there.
— with Judah Ari-Gross
Hamas urges blood donations as hospitals flooded by injured protesters
Hamas military wing, Izaddin al Qassam, is instructing its members to urgently donate blood to hospitals in northern Gaza Strip.
The terror group that runs the Strip says there is shortage of blood due to the large number of Palestinians injured in Friday’s riots along the border with Israel.
Earlier, the Gaza health ministry said that seven Palestinians have been killed and over 500 injured at half a dozen protests along the border fence.
— Khaled Abu Toameh
PA: Israel fully responsible for ‘assaults’ on Palestinian protesters
The Palestinian Authority says the Israeli government is fully responsible for the “assaults” on Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
Yusef al Mahmoud, a spokesperson for the PA government in Ramallah, calls for “immediate and urgent international intervention to stop the shedding of the blood of our Palestinian people by the Israeli occupation forces.”
— Khaled Abu Toameh
Meretz leader decries IDF use of live fire in Gaza, calls for ceasefire
Meretz leader Tamar Zandberg decries the army’s use of live fire to disperse Palestinian protesters clashing with Israeli soldiers along the Gaza border.
“We are following the events in Gaza with concern and calling for an immediate ceasefire,” Zandberg says in a statement. “The Palestinians have a right to demonstrate.”
“The army has the right to use riot control measures to prevent [cross-border] infiltrations and damage to the fence, but it must not use live ammunition against unarmed demonstrators and or to kill innocent civilians,” she adds.
Hamas says over 1,000 Gazans injured in border clashes
The Hamas-run Gaza health ministry says that over 1,000 Palestinians have been injured in the clashes, mostly from tear gas and rubber bullets, but a small number were also said wounded by live fire.
It says seven protesters have been killed in the clashes with Israeli troops along the border.
Eighth and ninth Palestinians said killed in Gaza border clashes
The death toll in clashes on the Gaza border has risen to nine, according to Palestinian sources.
Sources said Ibrahim Salah Abu Sha’ar, was shot dead by Israeli troops during violent protests along the border, near the southern city of Rafah.
Sabd al Fattah Abd al Nabi, 19, was reported as the ninth fatality.
The deaths were not confirmed by the Gaza health ministry.
Reports also put the number of injured at some 1,100, mostly from tear gas and rubber bullets, though a small number were also said wounded by live fire.
Over 60 Palestinians injured in Land Day protests across West Bank
The Palestinian Red Crescent says at least 63 Palestinians were injured in clashes with IDF troops that took place across the West Bank in solidarity with the “March of Return” demonstrations being held en masse along the Gaza border.
At least 27 of those injured were from demonstrations held in the northern West Bank city of Nablus, a Red Crescent spokesman says.
However, an IDF spokesman refers to the scattered protests across the Green Line, which have attracted some 900 demonstrators, as small scale.
Palestinian media are reporting Israeli troops firing tear gas and rubber bullets at demonstrators near Nablus and Ramallah.
The protests were a small fraction of much larger demonstrations on the Gaza border, where some 20,000 Palestinians massed near the security fence in what was a termed the “March of Return.”
Hamas warns those ‘besieging’ Gaza to ‘recalculate’ their positions
Hamas leader in the Gaza Strip Yehya Sinwar calls on those “besieging” the Gaza Strip to “recalculate” their position and absorb the message emanating from the “March of Return.”
Sinwar has arrived together with other Hamas leaders at a tent protest outside the city of Jabaliya in the northern Gaza Strip.
“The March of Return will continue,” Sinwar tells a crowd of thousands. “It will not stop until we remove this transient border [between the Gaza Strip and Israel].”
Friday’s protests, he explains, “mark the beginning of a new phase in the Palestinian national struggle on the road to liberation and return [of Palestinian refugees and their descendants to their former homes inside Israel].”
The “March of Return… affirms that our people can’t give up one inch of the land of Palestine. The protests will continue until the Palestinians return to the lands they were expelled from 70 years ago.”
— with Khaled Abu Toameh
Expecting violent protests to endure, IDF troops hold their positions
The army does not expect the violent protests along the Gaza security to end shortly and is leaving in place the current number of soldiers along the border, hours after the demonstrations began.
“We are ready for any scenario,” an army official says.
The official says this could include any number of things, including attempts to infiltrate the border, attacks with improvised explosive devices or rocket fire.
According to the army, some 30,000 Palestinians are taking part in the demonstrations. Protesters are throwing rocks and Molotov cocktails at the troops on the other side of the border and are trying to damage the security fence with fires and cutting tools, the official says.
As of Friday evening, at least nine rioters were killed and over 1,000 were injured by Israeli troops, according to Palestinian health services.
— Judah Ari-Gross
Court upholds Jean-Marie Le Pen’s Holocaust denial conviction
A French court upholds the Holocaust denial conviction of the far-right activist Jean-Marie Le Pen, while a different tribunal acquitted another prominent racist of hate incitement charges.
The Paris-based Court of Cassation’s ruled Tuesday against Le Pen, founder of the far-right National Front party. He has been convicted multiple times for incitement to racist hatred against Jews over his 2015 statement that the Holocaust was “a detail” of World War II.
Downplaying or denying genocides is illegal in France. Le Pen must pay more than $30,000 in fines for the remark, Le Monde reported. He was expelled from the National Front by its current leader, his daughter Marine Le Pen.
Holland sends military attaché to Iran, angering coalition partner
The Netherlands has posted a defense attaché to Tehran, angering a senior Dutch politician who is demanding to know why the government would seek military cooperation with a country that calls for Israel’s destruction.
Joël Voordewind of the Christian Union party says he was “dismayed” by the posting, which was first revealed by the NIW Dutch Jewish weekly. In addition to developing missiles capable of reaching Europe, “Iran oppresses its own population and seeks to wipe Israel off the face of the Earth,” says Voordewind, whose party is a coalition partner.
“I assume we don’t want military cooperation with Iran,” Voordewind tells the weekly.
His Party for Freedom and the Reformed Political Party are formulating a parliamentary query for the foreign and defense ministries, Esther Voet, the editor in chief of NIW, tells JTA.
IDF thwarts shooting attack on Gaza fence, no injuries
The IDF says it thwarted a shooting attack carried out by a terror cell in the northern Gaza Strip.
Two terrorists approached the coastal enclave’s security fence and fired towards IDF troops, the army says.
In response, the soldiers fired back at the terrorists and were joined by tanks and IAF fighter jets who also targeted three nearby military posts belonging to the Hamas terror group, the army said.
No injuries have been reported and no damage has been caused.
“This severe shooting attack is further proof that the terrorist organizations in the Gaza Strip use these violent riots in order to camouflage terror,” the army says
The IDF spokesman adds that Israeli troops fired toward suspects who had infiltrated into Israeli territory from the Gaza Strip via the security fence.
The army asserts that Hamas is responsible for all of the violent riots taking place in the coastal enclave
לפני זמן קצר סוכלה חוליית טרור שביצעה פיגוע ירי במרחב הגדר בצפון הרצועה. שני מחבלים התקרבו אל הגדר וירו לעבר כוחותינו. כוחותינו הגיבו באופן מיידי בירי משולב נק"ל וטנק לעבר המחבלים ועמדות חמאס בקרבת מקום. כמו כן בוצע ירי באמצעות כלי טיס לעבר הזירה. אין נפגעים ולא נגרם נזק pic.twitter.com/PHdmZITHwO
— צבא ההגנה לישראל (@idfonline) March 30, 2018
Turkey accuses Israel of ‘disproportionate’ use of force in Gaza
Turkey is accusing Israel of using “disproportionate force” against the Palestinians as clashes in Gaza near the Israeli border leave at least 12 people dead and dozens wounded.
“We strongly condemn Israel’s use of disproportionate force against Palestinians during the peaceful protests today (Friday) in Gaza,” the foreign ministry says in a statement.
The foreign ministry expresses “concerns” over the casualties.
“It is necessary that Israel rapidly ends use of force that would further raise the tensions in the region,” it says.
“We are inviting the international community to fulfil its responsibility to convince Israel to give up on its hostile attitude.”
Israeli officials hold the Hamas terror group responsible for any violence along the Gaza security fence during the protests and for the “consequences” of it. They have urged Palestinians not to allow themselves to be used as pawns by the terror group.
Turkey and Israel reached a deal in 2016 to end a six-year diplomatic crisis that erupted when Israeli commandos killed 10 Turkish activists traveling on an aid flotilla to break the siege of Gaza.
IDF refuses to comment on whether it killed Palestinians in thwarted attack
The army declines to comment on whether the two Palestinians who shot at IDF troops from along the Gaza border were killed.
Earlier, the IDF said it had thwarted a shooting attack carried out by a “terror cell” in the northern Gaza Strip.
Two Palestinians approached the coastal enclave’s security fence and fired toward IDF troops, the army said.
In response, the soldiers fired back at the terrorists and were joined by tanks and IAF fighter jets who also targeted three nearby military posts belonging to the Hamas terror group, according to the army.
The IDF statement asserted that no injuries or damage was caused as a result of the attack. It was not immediately clear whether it was referring exclusively to the Israeli side, or not.
Abbas declares day of mourning as Gaza death toll rises to 12
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas declares Saturday a “day of national mourning” to commemorate the Palestinians killed by the IDF during Friday’s mass marches along the border between the Gaza Strip and Israel.
Abbas’s decision comes as his Fatah faction called on the international community to intervene to stop the Israeli “massacre” against the “peaceful” Land Day protests in the Gaza Strip.
At least 12 Palestinians have been killed and over 1,000 have been injured in clashes with IDF troops, according to the Hamas-run Palestinian health ministry.Protesters have been throwing firebombs and stones at troops, tried to bomb and breach the security fence, and burned tires.
The army estimates over 30,000 took part in the protests.
As protests disperse, march organizers say they’ll be back tomorrow
The organizers of the March of Return pledge to continue their activities along the Gaza Border, saying they will dedicate Saturday’s protests in memory of those killed in clashes with IDF troops on Friday.
Speaking to reporters during a press conference, the organizers — made up of officials from various Palestinian factions — including the Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad terror groups — call on the United Nations and the Arab League to establish an international commission of inquiry to investigate Israel for use of “excessive force” against demonstrators.
The press conference takes place as Channel 10 reports that some of the demonstrators are beginning to disperse.
Lebanese army said to disperse solidarity protest on northern border
Channel 10 reports that the Lebanese army has dispersed several dozen demonstrators donning Palestinian flags in solidarity with the “March of Return” protest taking place along the Gaza border.
The protesters were heading toward the Israeli town of Avivim on the northern border, but the Lebanese army managed to scatter them near the village of Maroun al Ras before they reached the fence, Channel 10 says.
— علي شعيب ???????? (@ali_shoeib1) March 30, 2018
Palestinians report 15th Gazan killed in Friday demos
Palestinian media reports that a 15th Gazan has been killed in clashes with Israeli troops during violent demonstrations along the border of the coastal enclave.
Israeli officials have been holding Hamas responsible for the violent riots that have been ensuing on the border, saying that the terror group is endangering Gazans by encouraging them to approach the fence.
Protesters have been throwing firebombs and stones at troops, tried to bomb and breach the security fence, and burned tires.
The Hamas-run health ministry in Gaza reports that 1,416 protesters have been injured during the demonstrations.