Photo: AFP
Protests at the Gaza border fence with Israel
Photo: AFP

With eye on Gaza, Israel braces for Nakba Day protests

Security forces bolstered along border fence with Strip, anticipating violent clashes as tens of thousands of protesters expected in area; local communities take defensive measures and police prepare for demonstrations in Jerusalem, West Bank

The IDF and the defense establishment were deploying troops reinforcements in key trouble spots Wednesday, in anticipation of violent riots along the Gaza Strip border as Palestinians mark Nakba Day (Day of Catastrophe), which mourns the creation of the State of Israel in 1948.



The army believes that Hamas will restrain demonstrators and prevent violent incidents along the fence, but given the fragile cease-fire, is nonetheless preparing for the possibility of escalation during the Muslim fast month of Ramadan and as the Grand Final of the Eurovision Song Contest in Tel Aviv on Saturday.


Nakba Day protests calong the Gaza border in 2018 (Photo: AFP) (Photo: AFP)
Nakba Day protests calong the Gaza border in 2018 (Photo: AFP)

Tens of thousands of Palestinian demonstrators are expected to arrive at the Gaza border fence after noon prayers Wednesday, at the instigation of Hamas. As on other tense occasions over the past year, IDF forces will reinforce the Gaza border, deploying dozens of snipers and hundreds of ground troops at main friction points along the fence.


The Iron Dome missile defense batteries deployed to the area during the recent violence with Gaza also remain in operation.




While Nakba Day is marked every year with ceremonies, demonstrations and violent clashes, this year is expected to be particularly explosive as it is the first anniversary of the violent confrontations that took place in the Gaza Strip last year during the "March of the Return."


More than 60 Palestinians were killed in the most deadly day in the Gaza Strip since the war in 2014, known in Israel as Operation Protective Edge.


Hamas expected to rein in violence

The Hamas terrorist organization, which rules Gaza, is expected to restrain the riots and act as a barrier between the security fence and the demonstrators, in view of the current cease-fire and interim agreements between the Israeli government and Hamas. Most disturbances therefore are expected to take place a few hundred meters from the fence. 


IDF tanks near the Gaza border (Photo: Reuters) (Photo: Reuters)
IDF tanks near the Gaza border (Photo: Reuters)


Nonetheless, Israel is still anticipating the possibility of an attack under cover of the demonstrations, and troops have been ordered to take extra precautions in the event of sniper fire from Gaza.


Both the IDF and Hamas are aware of the fragility of the calm that has prevailed since the cease-fire came into effect some 10 days ago, and that could be shattered if Wednesday's riots end in Palestinian fatalities.


Palestinian protests in Gaza ahead of Nakba Day (Photo: AFP) (Photo: AFP)
Palestinian protests in Gaza ahead of Nakba Day (Photo: AFP)


Tension was also felt in the Israeli communities along the Gaza border ahead of the demonstrations and expected riots, and the security forces in these areas have been bolstered in the event of an escalation in violence.


In some areas, the IDF has begin to implement several defensive operations, with roadblocks and barriers being set up in areas that could be exposed to Gaza fire.


Concerete barriers are placed in Sderot to counter rocket fire from Gaza (Photo: AFP) (Photo: AFP)
Concerete barriers are placed in Sderot to counter rocket fire from Gaza (Photo: AFP)


The Israel Police is also preparing for the possibility that the confrontations in Gaza will spill over into Jerusalem and the West Bank, following a call by the various Palestinian organizations for protests in those areas as well.


Hundreds of extra police and Border Police officers were to be deployed to three locations in the capital - the Old City, neighborhoods of East Jerusalem and the crossings between Jerusalem and the West Bank.


Security forces are concerned that so-called lone wolf terrorists will try to carry out attacks, although there is apparently no concrete threat or intelligence. The police were also bracing for the influx to the Old City by many of the tourists in Israel for the Eurovision.


פרסום ראשון: 05.15.19, 10:20
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