A Palestinian video aired on Al Jazeera over the weekend shows demonstrators at Friday’s Gaza border protests breaching the border and entering Israeli territory unchallenged.
Around 15 people can be seen in the clip crossing over to the Israeli side of the security fence. The protesters are then seen running around, celebrating. One wearing a Guy Fawkes mask and brandishing a butcher’s knife jumps up and down while crying “Allahu Akbar.”
After a short time the protesters are apparently spotted by Israeli troops, and can be seen running back into Gaza.
The army said in a statement that the Gazans were identified by soldiers monitoring the border and a patrol was dispatched to the scene. Soldiers fired tear gas at the infiltrators and forced them back over the border.
Gazans have been holding weeks of protest at the Gaza-Israel border, encouraged by the Hamas terror group, which rules the Strip, and whose leaders say the ultimate goal of the protests is to erase the border and “liberate Palestine.”
On Saturday, the army said troops identified several Palestinians who breached the border and placed Molotov cocktails near the security fence in the south of the Strip before returning to Gaza. In a second incident soldiers fired at a group of Palestinians who attempted to sabotage the fence in southern Gaza, and they retreated.
During riots on Friday evening, dozens of Palestinians broke into the Gaza side of the Kerem Shalom border crossing between Israel and the Hamas-run Strip, setting fire to the gas pipeline that supplies fuel to the Strip, the army said.
The Gazans, who did not break through to the Israeli side of the border, vandalized their own supply infrastructure, Israeli military officials said.
The incident came amid the protests along the Gaza border, the sixth week of demonstrations, as part of the “March of Return.” At least 431 Palestinians were injured, Gaza officials said, as some 7,000 took part in the demonstrations, flew dozens of kites with petrol bombs into Israel, hurled stones at soldiers, and tried to breach the border fence.
The soldiers responded to the more violent demonstrators with less-lethal riot dispersal weapons, like tear gas, and also with live fire in some cases.
The IDF shared video of the Kerem Shalom incident, during which Palestinians broke into the Palestinian side of the crossing and damaged pipelines carrying gas and oil into Gaza, which already suffers from a large energy shortage.
“This is a cynical act that harms the welfare of Gaza residents and the humanitarian efforts carried out by Israel and many other countries,” the army said.
בשעה זו כמה עשרות מפרי סדר משחיתים ומציתים מוקדים בצדו הפלסטיני של מעבר הסחורות בכרם שלום. הפורעים פוגעים בצינורות הגז ובדלק המועברים מישראל לרצועת עזה ומיועדים לשימוש תושבי רצועת עזה https://t.co/4vqZfrczk1 pic.twitter.com/7p0Lm1ZECZ
— צבא ההגנה לישראל (@idfonline) May 4, 2018
Kerem Shalom is the main crossing for goods and humanitarian aid to pass into Strip from Israel.
Elsewhere, there were two mass attempts to damage and breach the security fence around the central Gaza Strip during the protests, the army said. Israeli soldiers who were called to the scene of those attempts forced back the demonstrators using less-lethal riot dispersal weapons and live fire.
There were no Palestinian deaths reported as of Friday evening, unlike in previous weeks. The IDF does not confirm Palestinian casualty figures, but it put the number of protesters at 7,000.
During the Friday demonstrations, two small Israeli army drones crashed in the Gaza Strip. The military said the drones were not being used in an operational capacity before they fell, but were filming the protests. From video footage, at least one of the drones appeared to be a civilian model in use by the Israel Defense Forces.
סרטון של מה שניראה כמו רחפן שנפל בעזה ( חאן יונס)לפי הצילום לא בטוח שהוא צהלי .עד עכשיו 40 פצועים על הגדר.שרפות בכמה מוקדים מטופלות על ידי כיבוי אש וחיילי צהל.
Posted by Pub-leak on Friday, 4 May 2018
It was not clear what caused the drones to crash. Palestinians claimed to have downed them.
Though the first two weeks of demonstrations saw tens of thousands of protesters, the past month has seen far lower levels of participation.
According to the Hamas health ministry, 48 Palestinians have been killed since protests and clashes began along the Gaza border on March 30 and hundreds of others have been wounded from gunfire.
Hamas, an Islamist terror group which seeks to destroy Israel, acknowledged that five of its terrorists were among the fatalities after the first Friday demonstration, but has since refrained for acknowledging whether its men are among the dead. Israel has identified other fatalities as members of terrorist groups.
Israel says it only opens fire when necessary to stop infiltrations, damage to the fence and attacks.
The “March of Return” is an eight-week-long set of protests that began on March 30 and is due to continue until at least mid-May. Though they were initially planned as non-violent demonstrations, the protests were apparently coopted by the Hamas terror group, which rules Gaza and whose leaders have said their goal is to erase the border and “liberate Palestine.”
The military has faced international and domestic criticism over its use of live fire, with the United Nations and European Union calling for an independent investigation rejected by Israel.
Israel says Hamas uses the marches as cover for terrorist attacks.
Israel has repeatedly expressed concern over the possibility of a mass breach of the Gaza fence, in which Palestinians would stream across with terrorists among them, wreaking havoc. Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar has vowed in the past that protesters would “breach the borders and pray at Al-Aqsa,” referring to the major Muslim shrine in Jerusalem.
Judah Ari Gross and agencies contributed to this report.