Palestinian demonstrators began gathering in the Gaza Strip border area on Wednesday afternoon, ahead of the expected demonstrations to mark Nakba Day (Day of Catastrophe), which mourns the creation of the State of Israel in 1948.
The demonstrators were heading for specially erected sites along the perimeter fence for events set to take place midday prayers.
The IDF and the defense establishment deploying reinforcements in key trouble spots Wednesday, in anticipation of violent riots along the Gaza border.
The Palestinian media reported isolated incidents in which IDF forces fired at demonstrators who had moved near to the fence. There was also a general strike in the Gaza Strip to mark the day.
By Wednesday afternoon, some 10,000 Palestinians had gathered in front of the border fence at several locations, while buses laid on by Hamas, the Palestinian terror group that rules Gaza, brought demonstrators to the sites. Tens of thousands of Palestinian demonstrators are expected to arrive at the fence, at the instigation of Hamas.
A small number of demonstrators have approached the border fence from time to time, but so far there have been no noticeable incidents.
The IDF has deployed extensively along the fence perimeter, while on the other side Hamas has also dispatched stewards to keep protesters in check.
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.
While Nakba Day is marked every year with ceremonies, demonstrations and violent clashes, this year was 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."
Hamas was 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 were therefore expected to take place a few hundred meters from the fence.