Despite several attempts to breach the security fence, fires sparked by arson terrorism, IDF official says the weekend was “the quietest” since Hamas’ riot campaign began • Palestinians: Over 100 protesters wounded in riots • Egypt continues with truce efforts.
Hamas appears to have scaled back the violent riots on Gaza’s border with Israel, as seen in Friday’s demonstration – a weekly demonstration that had been getting increasingly more violent in recent weeks – which was relatively low-key, defense officials said over the weekend.
The military said that 10,000 Palestinians rioted near the border, torching tires and hurling stones, grenades and explosives at the troops across the fence.
Three attempts to breach the security fence were foiled, the IDF said.
Gaza’s Health Ministry reported that over 100 Palestinians were wounded by IDF fire during Friday’s riots.
An Israeli Air Force aircraft bombed a Palestinian arson terrorism cell on Saturday. The Palestinians reported that one man was killed in the strike.
In a separate incident, several explosive devices discovered near the border fence on Saturday were neutralized safely by military sappers.
In a third incident, the Israeli Navy stopped a Palestinian fishing boat carrying what the IDF described as “suspicious items neutralized by sappers.” Two fishermen were arrested.
Palestinian terrorists also launched dozens of incendiary kites and balloons across the border over the weekend, sparking nine fires in Israeli frontier communities.
IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Gadi Eizenkot met over the weekend with GOC Southern Command Maj. Gen. Herzl Halevi and senior commanders in the Gaza Division and held several situation assessments.
”This was the quietest weekend along the border since the riots began [on March 30]. There were points along the security fence where Hamas operatives were seen instructing protesters to keep away from the fence,” one IDF official noted.
Still, “In other places, where violence raged, security forces took the proper action. This is not something the IDF is willing to tolerate and the demand from Hamas is that all the rioting stops entirely,” he said.
On Thursday, Israel reinforced its deployment along the Gaza border, a day after a Grad rocket fired from Gaza hit a home in Beersheba. The attack prompted Israel to threaten a forceful response if Gaza violence continues.
On Sunday, after the relatively calm weekend, Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman ordered the reopening of Israel’s border crossing with Gaza – the Kerem Shalom cargo crossing and Erez pedestrian crossing – which were shuttered in the wake of Wednesday’s rocket fire.
Egyptian security officials held separate meetings in recent days with Israeli counterparts and with the heads of Hamas and the other terrorist groups in Gaza, in an effort to prevent an escalation of violence.
Arab media reported that Egyptian intelligence chief Abbas Kamel, who canceled his visit to Gaza after Wednesday’s incident, is expected to visit the coastal enclave and Israel on Thursday to cement a truce deal.
Kamel is also scheduled to meet with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, whom he hopes to convince to lift the economic sanctions imposed on Gaza.
Still, Egyptian and Palestinian sources were quoted by Arab media as saying that Hamas has not promised Cairo that it will halt all border riots or its arson terrorism campaign, but rather said it would ensure protesters will remain 500 meters (1,600 feet) away from the fence.
”This aims to allow Egypt to reach agreements with Israel that would allow dozens of economic plans to go through and improve life in Gaza,” one Palestinian official said.
Some Arab media reports said that, despite Egypt’s objections, Abbas plans to impose additional sanctions on Gaza as part of effort to wrest control of the coastal enclave back from Hamas. In 2007, Hamas routed Abbas’ Fatah faction from Gaza in a particularly violent coup.
Qatar is said to be gearing up to circumvent these sanctions and funnel the money with which Hamas would be able to pay wages to its workers in Gaza. Doha has gone over Abbas’ head on the matter earlier this month as well, sending energy-starved Gaza some much-needed fueldespite Abbas’ attempts to stop it.