Israeli firefighters battled a total of some two dozen fires on the Gaza border on Thursday, all caused by Gaza Arabs flying kites loaded with flammable material over the border. That followed on the 22 fires that were set on Wednesday. And with Hamas declaring Friday a day of rioting and demonstrations, Friday is expected to be just as bad, IDF officials believe.
The security establishment is preparing for major rioting on Friday. A major demonstration at the border fence is planned for later Friday afternoon, with Hamas calling for tens of thousands to protest the “Naksa,” the day marking Israel’s victory in the 1967 Six Day War. Tuesday is actually the official anniversary of that event, but Hamas decided to postpone the major riot it is planning until Friday. The Palestinian Authority’s representative in Iran threatened Tuesday that Hamas would fire “hundreds of rockets” at Israel during the riot.
The IDF dropped flyers over Gaza population areas Thursday, warning residents to stay away from the border area Friday. The flyers stated that Hamas was just using Gazans to advance its terror efforts, and that Gazans were taking their lives into their hands by entering a battle zone. The IDF Spokesperson’s Arabic-language page also highlighted a major exercise the IDF conducted this week, which included exercises in house-to-house combat, of the type that would take place if fighting broke out in Gaza.
Hamas has been continuing to hold weekly riots at the Gaza border, but they have not been well-attended in recent weeks, after over 60 Hamas terrorists were killed in rioting last month that coincided with the opening of the U.S. Embassy in Yerushalayim. This Friday, however, marks the last one in the month of Ramadan, and Hamas believes that will be sufficient to attract thousands to the border. With that, the IDF does not believe it will get more people Friday than it did in the previous one, when some 48,000 Gazans massed on the border.
Security officials in Yerushalayim are also preparing for unrest, as Hamas has instructed Arabs in the rest of the country to riot as well. Hundreds of thousands of Arabs are expected at Har HaBayis on Friday, and hundreds of police, Border Guards and IDF soldiers will be on hand to keep order. Police will be closing several main thoroughfares in Yerushalayim to accommodate Arabs, and the city will provide free shuttle buses between the Old City and several points in Arab neighborhoods in the city.
In a statement, police said that they were there merely to ensure the safety of all residents, and that they would defend the rights of all individuals to conduct their religious rituals unthreatened.