An estimated 30,000 Palestinians moved towards the Israeli security fence along the Gaza Strip on Friday, with attackers and rioters throwing gas bombs, Molotov cocktails, rocks, burning tires and reportedly opening fire on IDF soldiers, as part of a planned protest organized by Hamas which drew support from Islamic Jihad of Gaza, leaving 16 Palestinians dead on Friday.
The riots were praised by Islamic Jihad terror group in Gaza, “Seventy years ago we left, and today we have decided to return to our country”, terror leader Khaled al-Batsh told AFP.
Ten of the dead, were known members of terrorist organizations, according to the IDF, who posted names and photos of the protesters who died.
The violent protests have continued all weekend as 11 Palestinians were reported injured in Gaza by Israeli forces on Sunday as the Hamas sponsored “March of Return” rolled into its third day of an expected 6 weeks of violence.
The Israel Defense Forces’ Spokesperson’s Unit on Tuesday posted two videos on its official Facebook page in Arabic in an effort to dissuade the residents of the Gaza Strip from participating the mass march on the Israel-Gaza border which took place on Friday, JNS news reported.
“Don’t you understand that terrorist elements are using you in a cynical manner? These events and activities do not and will not help, and they are pointless, Demand your rights from those who continue to oppress you rather than care about your problems, and who take what you deserve and your money for the purpose of digging useless tunnels. The choice is in your hands”, warned IDF spokesman Maj. Avichay Adraee.
The protesters ignored the warnings and went ahead rioting and attacking the Gaza boarder during what they called the “March of Return” and “Land Day”. The protests, kicked off an expected six weeks of demonstrations, set to climax on May 15, when Israel will mark 70 years of independence and the United States will cut the ribbon on its controversial new embassy in Jerusalem. Palestinians now refer to this day as the “nakba” (“catastrophe” in Arabic”).
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Saturday praised troops for guarding the country’s borders and said “Israel acts vigorously and with determination to protect its sovereignty and the security of its citizens.”
The UN called for an “independent and transparent investigation of the violence,” and “called upon all sides to exercise restraint and prevent a further escalation.”, in a UN Security Council draft released Saturday. The draft also referred to the Palestinian “right to peaceful protest” and expressed “sorrow at the loss of innocent Palestinian lives”. The US has blocked the statement.
In response to the UN calls for inquiry, Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman explained that the “attempt to break through the fence” was specifically carried out to “harm our sovereignty”, JNS News reported
“Any state whose borders people tried to crash would act in an even more severe way than we did, and therefore the procession of hypocrites calling for a committee of inquiry must understand that there will be no such thing,” Lieberman stated. “There will not be any international inquiry. We will not cooperate with any inquiry of this kind.”