Report: IAF renders Gaza protest tires unusable with preemptive burns
In report neither confirmed nor denied by IDF, Lebanese TV channel claims Israeli jets incinerated piles of tires on the Rafah border, rendering them useless ahead of expected violent Naksa Day protests; Hamas: 'It won't damage the motivation of the masses.'
The Lebanese news channel Al Mayadeen accused the Israel Air Force of dropping flares and other flammable materials Friday on piles of tires in Gaza in order to render them unusable in the upcoming Naksa Day border protest.
The IDF did not immediately confirm or deny the report.
The protests are expected to be the most violent yet witnessed on the volatile border, which has been a flashpoint of weekly riots staged as part of a wider protest under the banner of “March of Return.”
This Friday, with the Palestinians in the Hamas-ruled enclave commemorating the displacements that accompanied Israel’s victory in the multi-front 1967 Six Day War against neighboring Arab states, Israel has significantly beefed up its security presence, deploying snipers and tanks along the border.
Hamas organizers of the protests—which this week have been dubbed “The March of the Million to Jerusalem”—are urging Gaza residents to head to the perimeter fence, despite the IDF dropping warning leaflets across the strip not to become “tools” of Hamas.
The call was issued through mosques and loudspeakers mounted on cars that toured Gaza neighborhoods Friday.
“The burning of the tents and the tires will not damage the motivation of the masses who will participate in the March of the Million and will continue to work for the lifting of the blockade,” Hamas officials said.
Israel and Egypt have maintained a tight security blockade on the strip since Hamas took power in 2007, raising concerns that it would arm and attack Israel.
IDF soldiers are preparing for the protests to begin at approximately 2pm, slightly earlier than previous violent demonstrations that have taken place every Friday since the Muslim festival of Ramadan began.
Hundreds of IDF snipers began taking up positions overnight Thursday, fanning out along Gaza security fence to augment the already robust security presence on the border. Other troops were sent to the region from the Nahal and Givati Brigades, along with other elite units, joining soldiers from the Golani Brigade and the Armored Corps.
With over 100 Gazans killed by IDF lives fire during the weekly demonstrations, whom Israel says were engaged in terror activities and were not peaceful protesters, international attention began to focus on the military’s use of force, with world leaders voicing concern over the bloodshed.
On Wednesday, UK Prime Minister Theresa May told Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that she was concerned about the deaths of protesters in Gaza, saying that the situation had deteriorated.
The same day, British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson called on Israel "to carry out a transparent, independent inquiry" into the deaths of Palestinians in Gaza border clashes.
With Israel’s protestations that the use of live rounds was unavoidable in light of the threats often failing to convince critics, the IDF plan this Friday to use dozens of high-resolution cameras and drones to film the events with the sole aim of disseminating footage of Hamas ushering women and children to the line of fire on the border fence.
The military is also hoping to capture on camera the Palestinians throwing explosive devices and grenades at soldiers at the fence.
The IDF began dropping leaflets across the Gaza Strip on Thursday, urging residents “not to allow Hamas to turn you into tools for serving its narrow interests” as they prepare to stage the mass border protest.
Associated Press contributed to this report.