Security forces gear up for mass Palestinian protest marches on Passover eve

Chief of staff to meet with senior officers this week to review plans for upcoming period, amid efforts to strike balance between force and preventing fatalities

Sue Surkes is The Times of Israel's environment reporter

Palestinian men evacuate an injured protester during clashes with Israeli troops along the border fence near Khan Yunis in the southern Gaza Strip on March 16, 2018. (AFP Photo/Said Khatib)
Palestinian men evacuate an injured protester during clashes with Israeli troops along the border fence near Khan Yunis in the southern Gaza Strip on March 16, 2018. (AFP Photo/Said Khatib)

Security forces are gearing up for a Palestinian “day of rage” on Passover eve, when thousands of Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank are expected to try to storm fences marking the borders with Israel.

On that day, March 30, Palestinians and Israeli Arabs throughout Israel, the West Bank and Gaza will mark Land Day, commemorating an Israeli decision in 1976 to expropriate land in the Galilee — a move that sparked widespread riots that resulted in the death of six Arab Israeli citizens.

Palestinian groups are planning a “Mass March of Return,” which they hope will see tens of thousands of participants surging toward border fences.

A similar protest event is planned for May 15, when Palestinians mark the Nakba — the “catastrophe” of Israeli independence in 1948. This year, Nakba Day falls around the same time as the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

Palestinians throw stones at Israeli security forces during ‘Nakba’ Day clashes in the West Bank city of Bethlehem on May 15, 2017. (AFP Photo/Thomas Coex)

IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eizenkot will meet senior officers later this week to review plans amidst efforts to strike a balance between preventing anyone from breaching the fences while also averting fatalities, Hadashot TV reported Tuesday.

The Passover festival — and particularly Passover Eve — is a vulnerable time for Israelis, in light of the many terror acts that have been planned, some of which successfully, in the past.

One of the worst was on March 27, 2002, when Hamas carried out a suicide bombing during a Passover Seder at the Park Hotel in Netanya, killing 30 people and injuring 140.

Passover aside, Palestinian groups in the West Bank and Gaza have been urging mass protests on Fridays to protest US President Donald Trump’s December decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and to move the US embassy there from Tel Aviv.

Tensions are particularly high given a string of terror attacks over recent days, among them the fatal stabbing Sunday of an Israeli in the Muslim Quarter of Jerusalem’s Old City.

A medic rushes to the scene of a stabbing attack in the Old City of Jerusalem on March 18, 2018. (Ir Amim)

On Friday, two Israeli soldiers were killed and two others were injured when a Palestinian man rammed his car into them as they were standing outside a military observation post along a highway near the Mevo Dotan settlement in the northern West Bank.

According to data available to security forces, some 200 so called “lone wolf attacks” have been attempted, and thwarted, in the past two months alone. The term “lone wolf” is applied to Palestinian terrorists who appear to be acting alone, without affiliation to any terror group.

While the Palestinian Authority maintains security coordination with Israel and continues to try to prevent a considerable amount of attacks, Hamas, which rules the Gaza Strip, is trying hard to ignite terror attacks both in the coastal enclave and the West Bank.

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