Hamas scales back Gaza riots; truce ‎efforts to renew ‎

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.‎

Video: Reuters

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.‎

Reuters
Palestinian protesters trying to sabotage coiled barbed wire placed near the Israel-Gaza border, Friday

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. ‎