Palestinians say 1 killed by Israeli forces during rioting on Gaza border

IDF believes Hamas stepping up provocations on frontier amid dispute with Qatar over monthly funding

Emanuel (Mannie) Fabian is The Times of Israel's military correspondent

Palestinian rioters clash with Israeli soldiers on the Gaza border, east of Khan Yunis, in the southern Gaza Strip, on September 19, 2023. (Abed Rahim Khatib/Flash90)
Palestinian rioters clash with Israeli soldiers on the Gaza border, east of Khan Yunis, in the southern Gaza Strip, on September 19, 2023. (Abed Rahim Khatib/Flash90)

A Palestinian man was killed by Israeli forces during rioting on Israel’s border with the Gaza Strip on Tuesday, health authorities in the territory announced.

In addition to the slain 25-year-old, another 11 Palestinians were wounded, including one who was listed in serious condition, the Hamas-run health ministry said, following the third straight day of rioting on the border.

The Israel Defense Forces said troops deployed crowd dispersal means and used live fire in some cases against the rioters, adding that several were hit.

The IDF said the rioters had set off a number of makeshift bombs in the area.

Rioting has escalated on the border with Israel in recent weeks, with Palestinians detonating explosive devices, setting tires on fire, trying to breach the security barrier, and opening fire at troops in a handful of cases.

No IDF soldiers have been wounded in the recent riots so far.

The death on Tuesday was the first apparently caused by Israeli fire during the recent riots. Last week, six Palestinian rioters were killed while attempting to detonate a makeshift bomb on the border during a riot.

Palestinian rioters clash with Israeli soldiers on the Gaza border, east of Khan Yunis, in the southern Gaza Strip, on September 19, 2023. (Abed Rahim Khatib/Flash90)

The riots, according to military assessments and a recent report by the Kan public broadcaster, come as the Hamas terror group, which rules the Gaza Strip, seeks to resolve a dispute it has with Qatar over monthly funding the Gulf nation provides to the Palestinian enclave.

Qatar is a key backer of Hamas, providing the Gaza Strip’s rulers with millions of dollars each month in recent years, part of unofficial ceasefire arrangements between Israel and the terror group. The money goes toward fuel for the territory, Hamas civil servants, and needy residents.

Hamas uses the proceeds from the sale of the fuel it gets to pay salaries for its civil servants. However, due to the rising prices of gasoline, the monthly installment of $30 million that was recently transferred to Hamas netted the group less funds than usual, Kan reported.

Hamas has reportedly asked Qatar to increase the monthly sum to adjust for inflation, but it so far has not agreed to the demand.

Hamas apparently launched the riots on the Gaza border to pressure Israel, which would in turn pressure Qatar to solve the issue.

According to military assessments described to The Times of Israel, the IDF fears the riots could spark an escalation with Hamas.

While the IDF believes Hamas is not interested in a war with Israel, a mistake by the terror group amid the border riots could draw an Israeli response and, in turn, rocket launches at Israel.

In response to the recent riots, as a warning, the IDF struck a Hamas observation post near the border on Friday. Additionally, the Erez border crossing with the Gaza Strip has been shuttered for several days.

The military’s liaison to the Palestinians said earlier this week that the crossing would not reopen for Palestinian workers on Monday morning after it had been shuttered since Friday morning due to the Rosh Hashanah holiday.

View of the closed Erez Crossing, also known as the Beit Hanoun Crossing, between Israel and the northern Gaza Strip, on August 18, 2023. (Atia Mohammed/Flash90)

The Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories, known by its acronym COGAT, said Monday night that the crossing would not open on Tuesday morning either.

The crossing may reopen on Wednesday morning following a fresh assessment, but no decision had been made as of Tuesday evening.

The closure affects 17,000 Gazans who have permits to enter Israel for work.

The recent riots signal a return by Hamas and other terror factions in the Gaza Strip to a policy of regular mass protests and violence along the border.

Weekly protests along the frontier began at the end of March 2018 and continued almost every Friday until the end of 2019, with the demand that Israel lift its restrictions on the movement of people and goods into and out of the coastal enclave, and a call for the return of Palestinian refugees and their descendants to lands that are now a part of the Jewish state.

Israel says its blockade of Gaza is necessary to prevent Hamas from freely arming itself for war and attacks.

Tires burn as Palestinian rioters clash with Israeli soldiers along the Israel-Gaza border on September 15, 2023. (Mohammed Abed/AFP)

The weekly protests on the border in 2018 and 2019 frequently involved violence, including the hurling of explosives, rocks and firebombs at IDF soldiers, as well as attempts to storm and sabotage the border fence, and in some cases live fire toward Israeli soldiers. Troops often responded with rubber-coated bullets and tear gas, as well as live fire. More than 200 Palestinians were killed in the riots and thousands were injured.

In addition, Palestinians regularly flew helium balloons into Israel carrying explosives and incendiary devices, sparking fires that destroyed large swaths of foliage.

The military says that while far fewer people were participating in the recent riots — hundreds at most compared to tens of thousands in 2018 and 2019 — the level of violence was just as high.

Explosive devices detonated on the border have not caused any significant damage to the security barrier, as the riots have taken place along Israel’s older fence, rather than near the upgraded security barrier, which was built several meters into Israeli territory.

According to IDF assessments, there was a low chance that the current riots would return to the form of the 2018 and 2019 border protests, but there was still a risk of an escalation.

Most Popular
read more: