Palestinian caught at Gaza fence says Hamas plans riots so ‘people won’t revolt’

Palestinian caught at Gaza fence says Hamas plans riots so ‘people won’t revolt’

‘They’re the ones controlling the Strip, ruling it. Everything that happens goes through them,’ the man says in an interrogation video released by the IDF

Judah Ari Gross is The Times of Israel's military correspondent.

The Israeli military on Wednesday released footage from the interrogation of a Palestinian man who was arrested as he infiltrated into Israel from the Gaza Strip on Tuesday, in which he claims that Hamas is leading the recent border riots in order to stave off an uprising.

“Hamas organizes these riots so the people won’t revolt,” said the Palestinian suspect, whose face was blurred in the video.

“They’re the ones controlling the Strip, ruling it. Everything that happens goes through them,” he said.

On Tuesday, he was one of several Gazans who breached the security fence and entered Israeli territory during a violent border protest. They were arrested by Israeli soldiers shortly after they made it past the fence, the army said.

The Israel Defense Forces released his filmed testimony on Wednesday night. In the video, the suspect speaks in Arabic to the Israeli soldiers, while he sits handcuffed on what appears to be a kite covered in swastikas that had been flown into Israel from Gaza.

A picture taken on May 14, 2018 from the southern Israeli kibbutz of Nahal Oz across the border with the Gaza Strip shows Palestinian protestors gathering along the border fence with Israel. (AFP/Jack Guez)

Since March 30, Palestinians in the Gaza Strip have held regular violent protests along the security fence, known collectively as the “March of Return,” with between thousands and tens of thousands of participants.

In general, these demonstrations consist of youths hurling rocks and Molotov cocktails at the border and the soldiers on the other side, small groups trying to damage and breach the fence, and people launching kites laden with containers of burning fuel into Israel where they spark fires.

Some weeks have also seen direct, armed clashes between rioters and Israeli soldiers.

Over 100 Palestinians have been killed in these protests, according to the Hamas-run Gaza health ministry. The majority of them were later identified as members of terrorist groups either by the organizations themselves or Israeli security services.

On Wednesday Hamas said 50 of the 62 people killed over the last two days were Hamas members. Islamic Jihad claimed another three.

Israel maintains that these “March of Return” protests are not civil-led popular uprisings, but are a military operation by Hamas, the Islamist terror group that rules Gaza, which are meant to turn the border area into a combat zone and allow terrorists to carry out attacks against Israeli troops and civilians.

In his filmed testimony, the suspect appears to confirm that the protests are being led by Hamas.

“Hamas is the one sending us Facebook and text messages to go, and at the mosques they yell and hand out flyers calling us to go to the fence,” he said.

“When there’s (electric) power, and the televisions are on, all you see is the March of Return, the march, the march,” the suspect said.

Palestinian protesters during clashes with Israeli forces near the Gaza-Israel border in Rafah, Gaza Strip on May 14, 2018. (Abed Rahim Khatib/Flash90)

He said Hamas, which seized control of the coastal enclave in a violent coup in 2007, organizes buses to the protests from mosques in Gaza.

The suspect said the terrorist group specifically encourages women and children to approach the border, telling them “the army won’t shoot girls” and “the army won’t shoot little kids.”

The Israeli military believes that Hamas leaders are trying to use these protests as a way to divert the frustration, anger and hopelessness of the Gaza population away from them.

“People wear out and get fed up. I’m one of those people,” the suspect said.

According to IDF assessments, the terrorist group is in dire straits, in light of the deplorable and worsening living conditions in the beleaguered coastal enclave, which gets just a few hours of electricity per day and has no reliable sources of clean water due to an ongoing spat between Hamas and the Palestinian Authority.

“They are putting pressure on their people and ‘exporting’ that pressure toward Israel, the Palestinian Authority and the international community,” a senior official in Israel’s military liaison unit to the Palestinians told reporters on Sunday.

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