Israelis on Gaza border mull evacuation due to rioting
Residents living near the border have been suffering from the daily—and now also nightly—protests. The Palestinians' burning tires and the IDF's tear gas cause severe air pollution, while rioters have been harassing residents by shouting threats and playing Code Red sirens on a megaphone.
Some six months after the Palestinian "March of Return" campaign began in Gaza, the violent rioting near the fence, which took place only during the day so far, has in recent weeks began "stretching" into the night.
Almost every evening, hundreds and at times thousands of Palestinians gather at different spots along the Gaza border fence and continue rioting until midnight.
The protests, which have become even more violent, include the hurling of firecrackers and explosive devices, grenades and stones at IDF forces, and the launching of incendiary balloons and kites—all of which cause damage to the border fence and the nearby area.
In some cases, the Palestinians succeed in infiltrating Israeli territory and causing damages to the heavy equipment being used by the defense establishment to construct the underground obstacle on the border.
The night protests have been gaining momentum after the rioters realized the IDF is having a harder time stopping the masses from reaching the fence in the dark.
The IDF soldiers on the border, meanwhile, strictly adhere to the rules of engagement, and at the same time avoid coming near the border for fear of sniper fire.
Air pollution from burning tires smokeIsraelis living near the Gaza border have been suffering from the rioting for months. Every night, they can hear the explosions of the firecrackers and other explosives being hurled at the IDF troops.
The Palestinians have also taken to playing recordings of the Code Red rocket-alert siren using megaphones to scare the residents, and at certain sections of the fence Palestinians can come close enough to shout abuse at the residents. In one town on the border, residents have been hearing shouting in Hebrew saying: "We're coming to kill you through the tunnels; we'll burn down your town."
The Israeli residents also have to deal with the daily incendiary balloon terrorism, which causes an average of 10 fires a day.
"For over six months, there has been a war of attrition here," said Amit, a resident of one of the communities on the Gaza border. "A proper daily war on the border."
The smoke from the daily and nightly protests, caused when Palestinians set fire to numerous tires, also poses a health risk to the Israeli residents of the border area.
Residents of Kerem Shalom, and particularly young children, have been suffering from breathing difficulties and vomiting caused by the burning tires smoke.
Representatives of the Environmental Protective Ministry arrived at the community several days ago to carry out several air quality monitoring tests, finding unusually high levels of air pollution both outside homes and inside them.
"Following the tests, we recommended to instruct residents to close themselves up in their homes," the ministry said Wednesday.
Kerem Shalom's residents had an emergency discussion, where they presented their complaints.
"Our community is covered in suffocating smoke," one said. "Last week, worshippers drove to the synagogues in their cars, as it was impossible to walk outside because of the pollution."
Some of the air pollution is also caused by the crowd dispersal measures the IDF uses against the Palestinian rioters.
"The IDF fires tear gas, and because of the westerly winds, everything flies back to us," the same resident said. "In recent days, there were grave incidents of children walking around outside when all of a sudden a wave of tear gas and black smoke came. They simply lied down on the floor and couldn't breathe."
The residents complained to the IDF, which told them it will find a solution. But until then, they are considering evacuating the town.
At this time, however, there has been no decision made to evacuate, mostly because the residents don't want to give Hamas a victory from the protests. But if the situation gets worse, they say they might not have a choice but to leave.