IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot said Tuesday that Palestinian terror groups had attempted to kidnap soldiers during mass protests on the Gaza border which he said were a front for terrorist activity.
At a ceremony marking the installation of a military top liaison to the Palestinians, Eisenkot said, “In recent weeks, we’ve once again seen the complexity of the situation, when our forces found themselves facing mass protests that served as cover for terrorist actions, attacks on soldiers, attempts at kidnapping, attacks on military posts, and attempts to infiltrate [Israeli] towns.”
Eisenkot did not provide further details.
Palestinians in Gaza have staged violent demonstrations at the enclave’s border with Israel over five consecutive Fridays.
Last Friday, four people were killed and over 300 hurt, bringing the toll in the border clashes since March 30 to 44 Palestinian dead and over 1,500 injured by live fire.
These figures are provided by the Gaza Strip’s Hamas-run health ministry and have not been independently verified.
The protests, which are backed and encouraged by Hamas, the terror group that rules Gaza, were originally dubbed by their Palestinian organizers as nonviolent, but Hamas, which seeks to destroy Israel, publicly supported the demonstrations and declared that their ultimate goal was to erase the border and liberate Palestine.
Rioters have burned tires, hurled firebombs and rocks at Israeli troops, flown flaming kites over the border, and repeatedly attempted to sabotage the security fence.
During the summer 2014 Gaza war, Hamas terrorists captured and are still believed to be holding the remains of two Israeli soldiers, Hadar Goldin and Oron Shaul.
In the following year, two apparently mentally ill Israeli civilians, Abera Mengistu and Hisham al-Sayed, entered the Gaza Strip of their own volition and were taken captive by Hamas. They are assumed to be still captive in the enclave.
In 2006, Hamas kidnapped soldier Gilad Shalit near the Gaza border and held him captive for more than five years.
He was released in October 2011 as part of a prisoner exchange.
Last month, Security forces arrested a member of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad terror group off the Gaza coast suspected of planning to sink an Israeli naval patrol boat and kidnap any survivors last month, Israel revealed on Wednesday.
The plan was to use three boats to lure in a navy ship, fire a missile at it and then seize the wounded and slain soldiers, according to a joint statement by the Shin Bet security service and Israel Defense Forces.
In December, security services arrested three members of an alleged Hamas terrorist cell in the northern West Bank suspected of planning to kidnap an Israeli citizen during the Hanukkah festival, the Shin Bet security service announced Wednesday.