Thousands of Palestinians protest on Gaza border

Thousands of Palestinians protest on Gaza border

Several hundred rioters throw stones and explosive devices at IDF soldiers, who respond with tear gas and occasional live fire; 16 reported wounded

A Palestinian rioter uses a slingshot to hurl stones at Israeli forces near the fence along the border with Israel in the eastern Gaza Strip on August 16, 2019. (Photo by MAHMUD HAMS / AFP)
A Palestinian rioter uses a slingshot to hurl stones at Israeli forces near the fence along the border with Israel in the eastern Gaza Strip on August 16, 2019. (Photo by MAHMUD HAMS / AFP)

Several thousand Palestinians joined protests on the Gaza Strip border Friday, with several hundred rioting and throwing stones and explosive devices at Israeli troops.

Soldiers responded with tear gas and occasional live fire. The Hamas-run Gaza health ministry said 16 Palestinians had been injured.

The IDF had no immediate comment.

For the past year, Palestinians have staged regular marches on the Gaza border known collectively as the Great March of Return. The spring of 2019 saw a dramatic increase in the level of violence along the Gaza border, with near nightly riots and airborne arson attacks, but the violence waned in recent weeks due to a de facto ceasefire agreement between Israel and the Gaza-ruling Hamas terror group.

The protests resumed Friday after being cancelled last week due to the Muslim Eid al-Adha celebrations.

However, over the last two weeks there were several serious infiltration attempts into Israel.

In a span of 10 days, six armed Palestinian terrorists — many of them current and former Hamas members — got through the security fence surrounding the Gaza Strip before being killed by Israeli troops. In one case on August 1, the gunman opened fire at IDF soldiers, injuring three of them, before he was shot dead.

Last Saturday, a group of four heavily armed terrorists, carrying assault rifles, rocket-propelled grenade launchers and rations, attempted to infiltrate into Israeli territory before they were spotted and shot dead by troops on the border.

This photo shows RPGs and other weapons carried by four Palestinians who attempted to infiltrate into Israel through the border fence with Gaza, August 10, 2019. (Israel Defense Forces)

On Sunday morning, another gunman breached the security fence and opened fire at Israeli soldiers before he was killed.

On Monday night, the IDF announced that its forces had detained a suspect armed with a knife who had crossed the security fence along the southern Gaza border.

The Hamas terror group, which rules the Strip, deployed additional troops to the frontier in a bid to prevent breaches of the border fence, understanding that these cross-border attacks risked provoking a harsh response by the Israeli military, according to the Palestinian Amad news outlet.

Israel’s Defense Ministry was also reportedly planning the construction of a six-meter (20-foot) high defensive wall inside Israeli territory across from the northern Gaza border, which is meant to provide nearby communities with additional protection from terrorist infiltrations.

In recent years, areas of southern Israel near Gaza have also been targeted by anti-tank missile attacks and small arms fire from inside the Strip.

The Defense Ministry has reportedly began considering construction of a wall to protect Israeli communities, which will be in addition to the new metal fencing currently being built along the border.

The plans for the wall are not yet complete, with officials from the defense and transportation ministries and the Prime Minister’s Office currently hammering out details and determining the cost of the project, which is expected to run into the tens of millions of shekels, according to a Monday report by Channel 12.

The wall is slated to stretch some nine kilometers (six miles) along Route 34, between Kibbutz Yad Mordechai and the city of Sderot.

A map from Channel 12 showing a planned defensive wall running inside Israel near the northern Gaza border, from Kibbutz Yad Mordechai along Route 34 to Sderot. (Channel 12 screen capture)

It comes to fill what some military officials view as a gap in the country’s defenses in the area against Gazan terror groups, especially Hamas, which rules the Palestinian enclave, and the Iran-backed Palestinian Islamic Jihad.

Both have devoted vast resources in the impoverished territory to developing methods for circumventing Israel’s border defenses in a bid to carry out attacks against civilian populations and military targets inside Israel. These efforts have included the construction of dozens of underground tunnels into Israel, the deployment of thousands of hidden rocket launchers throughout the Strip, and plans for infiltration into Israel by armed assailants.

In response, Israel has developed new defensive technologies in recent years, including the Iron Dome missile defense system, an underground tunneling barrier now under construction, and an array of special and mostly secretive detection technologies deployed along the border.

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