IDF Braces for Mass Disturbances on Gaza Border

YERUSHALAYIM -
israel gaza
Israeli soldiers with mobile artillery units near the Gaza border, Wednesday. (Reuters/Amir Cohen)

After a day of tense quiet, there was a resurgence of violence on the Gaza border Wednesday night as Palestinians launched incendiary balloons and hurled explosive devices at Israeli troops.

Explosion could be heard across the border in southern Israel, according to media reports.

The clashes came just hours after IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kohavi told troops deployed in the area to be on alert for “various scenarios,” the army said, on the eve of the first anniversary of the Hamas-sponsored “Great March of Return” border protests. Hamas leaders have called for tens of thousands to join in the event over the weekend, and the IDF is bracing for what could be a bloody confrontation.

Palestinian Authority officials in Ramallah have warned that the volatile situation could escalate into a “new intifada,” a violent uprising against Israel. With that in mind, Egyptian mediators have reportedly been meeting with Hamas officials in an ongoing effort to negotiate a ceasefire with Israel.

Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, who is also defense minister, met with Kohavi, head of the National Security Council Meir Ben-Shabbat, head of Shin Bet security service Nadav Argaman and other top officials at the IDF headquarters in Tel Aviv, according to a statement from the Prime Minister’s Office.

Meanwhile, there was a wary return to normalcy on Wednesday, as schools reopened in the south and residents went back to their daily routines.

Israel released a report on Wednesday that said than 2,000 violent incidents have come from the Gaza Strip since the Hamas-orchestrated weekly border demonstrations began a year ago.

The report gave the grim statistics: Palestinians launched 1,233 rockets from Gaza, threw 94 explosive devices and 600 Molotov cocktails across the security fence and committed 152 acts of arson against Israeli forces.

The report says that rocket fire killed one person in Israel and injured 126. Palestinian attacks on the security fence killed one Israeli soldier and wounded 16.

It said incendiary kites have burned thousands of acres of Israeli farmland, inflicting over $9.5 million in damage.