Middle East

Israel tells UN it will ‘defend’ itself as Gaza braces for 6 weeks of protest

IDF Chief of Staff says 100 snipers are authorized to open fire on the border

Israel on Thursday warned the United Nations that it will defend its border on the eve of a mass protest planned by Palestinians in Gaza.

Israeli Ambassador Danny Danon wrote to U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and the Security Council to warn of a “dangerous effort by Palestinian leaders to create conflict by orchestrating a series of mass confrontations.”

Palestinians in Gaza on Friday will kick off six weeks of protests beginning on Friday – Land Day – leading up to May 15 – Nakba Day, the date Palestinians mark their displacement from their land. The protests will also fall around the ceremonial opening of the U.S. embassy in Jerusalem on May 14.

“In light of the Palestinians’ organized planned provocation for the coming weeks, I reiterate Israel’s right to defend its sovereignty and protect its citizens,” Danon wrote.

According to one of the organizers, Hasan al-Kurd, protesters are planning to set up camps between 700-1,000 meters from the fence, outside the army’s buffer zone, 972 Magazine reported earlier this week.

Al-Kurd told the magazine that the organizers will ensure the protest doesn’t escalate to violence on their end. “We’re against stone throwing or even burning tires,” he was quoted as saying.

Ali Abusaad, who lives in Gaza, told The Defense Post late Thursday that a growing number of people were planning to attend the march.

“People are going for their right to go back to their villages that they were evacuated from by violence,” he said in a telephone interview.

He said the humanitarian situation in the Gaza strip was dire. “What’s happening in Syria now – it looks the same as what our families have been experiencing,” he said. “Tomorrow you will see a lot of desperate people cross the border.”

“I’m not hoping for a lot but I’m hoping there will be no killing,” he added.

Israeli army reinforcements along the Gaza border

Israel Defense Forces chief of staff Lieutenant General Gadi Eizenkot warned on Wednesday that the army has been given authorization to use live ammunition against protesters who plan to demonstrate on the Gaza border during the planned “March of Return.”

Eizenkot said reinforcements, including special forces snipers, had been deployed to the border to counter what he said was the most serious risk of conflict since he took up his post in 2015.

He told the newspaper Yedioth Ahronot that 100 snipers had been deployed to the border, and the army would not allow a “mass infiltration” during the protests.

“If lives are in jeopardy, there is permission to open fire,” Eizenkot said.

U.N. Middle East envoy Nickolay Mladenov has urged restraint, telling the Security Council on Monday: “It is imperative that civilians, in particular children, not be targeted and that all actors refrain from putting children at risk at any time.”

Two Palestinians were arrested on Thursday after crossing the border into Israel, the fifth such incident in a week.

Israeli tanks fired into Gaza on Wednesday after activists set fire to the base of the security fence, the army said. The army said it retaliated with strikes on two Hamas positions inside Gaza.

With reporting from AFP

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