The IDF dropped leaflets and fired tear gas into Gaza early on Monday, warning Palestinians to stay away from the border with Israel as protesters gathered for the penultimate day of a six-week demonstration.
The leaflets cautioned Gaza residents against approaching the fence or “attempting to sabotage it.” They warned residents “not to serve as a tool for Hamas.”
They said the IDF would “continue to operate against those who wish to harm Israel’s security.”
Protests are expected to escalate on Monday, the 70th anniversary year of the foundation of Israel and the day the U.S. Embassy in Yerushalayim will be officially opened.
The protests, dubbed the “Great March of Return,” are scheduled to climax on Tuesday, the day that Palestinians mourn as the “Nakba” or “Catastrophe” when, in 1948, the State of Israel was founded.
Hamas, the Islamist terror group that controls Gaza, has promised larger crowds in Gaza and elsewhere over the next two days.
Elite IDF units were operating on both sides of the border fence, ready to deal with the possibility that a large Arab mob will succeed in tearing down part of the security force, and pouring through into the Israeli side. The IDF does not dismiss the possibility that the fence will indeed be breached, but large forces will be deployed to ensure that rioters do not get into towns and villages in the border area. Preventing Gaza rioters from getting into an Israeli settlement and burning it down, or kidnapping soldiers or civilians, is the top priority of the army, security sources told Hadashot News.
Even if the army succeeds in holding the mob back, major security issues are expected at the Gaza border fence Monday. Buses will transport thousands of rioters to the fence area, and Hamas has stocked up on tires, which will be burned to create a smoke cover for terrorist activities. Dozens of “terror kites” are also expected to be flown. Israeli forces were using lightweight drones to disable the kites. Hamas said Monday morning that it had shot down one of the drones.
Overnight Sunday, security officials said they arrested 9 wanted security suspects in other areas in Yehudah and Shomron. The suspects were wanted for participating in rioting and throwing stones and firebombs that endangered Israeli civilians and IDF soldiers. Several of the suspects were also charged with belonging to Hamas. All were being questioned on their activities by security forces.
Education Minister Naftali Bennett told Israel Radio that Israel would treat the Gaza fence as an “Iron Wall” and anyone who approached it as a “terrorist.”