As Hamas prepares to bring tens of thousands of rioters to the Gaza border fence Friday, a Hamas official told Yisrael Hayom Thursday that the terror group will prevent Gaza residents from confronting IDF soldiers. According to the report, Hamas military wing troops will be stationed between staging areas for the riots and the fence, and will prevent people from approaching the fence. In addition, Hamas will station security personnel to ensure that rioters do not bring weapons to the demonstration staging areas.
The IDF has also 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.
An IDF official quoted by Yisrael Hayom said that Israeli security forces would treat any attempt to breach the border fence very seriously. “We will not allow Hamas to mar Pesach for Israelis. Our response will be harsh, and not just against the rioters. We have been in contact with 20 bus companies in Gaza that Hamas has hired to transport the rioters, and warned them that they will be held responsible as well.”
A report in Yisrael Hayom said that Hamas had allocated $10 million for the march. The money will be spent on “salaries” for rioters, and for the establishment of a tent city 800 meters from the border fence, where tens of thousands will be staying while preparing for the riots.
In a social media message, IDF General Yoav Mordechai, coordinator for activities in the territories, said that “Hamas has failed in its management of Gaza and serves itself instead of the population. Because it is becoming desperate it is pushing the population to riot at the border. Hamas will plant its agents among the population. We will act with a strong hand against all terrorists activities and all attempts by terrorists to enter Israel.”