Gaza terror groups are working in full gear on final preparations for the first attempt of the “Great Return March,” scheduled for Friday, Erev Pesach. Hundreds of buses are being deployed to transport rioters to the Gaza border fence, where a large mob is expected to try and break through the fence and enter Israel. The terror groups – including Hamas, Islamic Jihad and other terror groups associated with Fatah – have set up a tent city several hundred meters from the border, and will be giving out free food and drink to participants. Hamas is spending at least $10 million on the effort.
The IDF, meanwhile, has been preparing carefully for the event. Three security rings will be deployed around Gaza, with soldiers on the innermost ring closest to Gaza prepared to shoot those who breach the border. A report in Maariv said that one of the biggest concerns of the army is how to balance its defensive efforts – with enough force deployed to discourage Gaza Arabs from breaching the fence, but concerned that too much will set off rioting among Palestinian Authority Arabs.
Generally, the IDF allows Gaza Arabs to get within 100 meters of the border fence, but given the tension leading up to the Friday event, the army has extended that ban to about 300 meters. IDF planes have dumped tens of thousands of leaflets on Gaza warning residents to stay away from the border fence riots, and declared that anyone who gets too close to the border can expect to be shot – either with rubber bullets or live ammunition.
Another concern is that terrorists will booby-trap areas of the border fence with bombs, even if they do not attempt to breach it, with the bombs going off when IDF patrols pass by. One tactic terrorists have used to plant these bombs in recent days has been to approach the border and hang PA flags on it. As they are doing that, accomplices surreptitiously place bombs, which are then set to go off when Israeli soldiers are in the area. Soldiers on Tuesday night identified several terrorists trying to hang flags on the border fence. IDF soldiers opened fire on them, and they ran away back into Gaza.
On Tuesday, three Gaza terrorists were captured near Kibbutz Tze’elim in southern Israel after they breached the border fence. They were found to be carrying knives and hand grenades, and were on their way to rendezvous with other terrorists, preparing for an attack to be carried out this week, days before Pesach. The IDF has opened an investigation into how the terrorists were able to get to the kibbutz, over 20 kilometers away from the border fence. Security footage that surfaced after the three were captured showed them nonchalantly walking around the entrance of the kibbutz, with passerby giving them not a second glance – even though one of them was wearing a winter coat, despite Tuesday’s warm temperatures.