Tensions high along Gaza-Israel border as Palestinians call for 'Friday of Fire'

Tensions on both sides of the Gaza-Israel border are high as Palestinians in Gaza call for a "Friday of Fire."...

Posted: Apr 6, 2018 9:57 AM
Updated: Apr 6, 2018 9:57 AM

Tensions on both sides of the Gaza-Israel border are high as Palestinians in Gaza call for a "Friday of Fire."

Israel will not change its rules of engagement ahead of the "March of Return" planned for Friday in Gaza.

Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman warned those who do not abide by the rules "will be shot," speaking on Israeli Army Radio late Wednesday.

Palestinians are bracing for potential violence; Israel also expects more violence on Friday.

"It is going to be another bloody weekend," Israel's former counterterrorism chief Brigadier General (Reserve) Nitzan Nuriel told reporters. "We have Hamas who are armed trying to push it a bit more than we can accept." He reiterated that the border is a red line. "Those who will be close to the fence, we will see them as a target," Nuriel said. "They should demonstrate without crossing those red lines. If they do, the price will be very high." Israel blames Hamas and Islamic Jihad for the violence, and warned it will strike deep inside Gaza if provoked.

Thousands of tires have been readied to set alight on the Gaza side of the border in order to create curtains of black smoke and obscure the sights of Israeli snipers.

Since Wednesday morning, bulldozers have been constructing dirt berms at a location near the border.

Gazans at the temporary northern Abu Safia tent camp built last weekend say it's to protect protesters.

"Friday of Fire," as it's been dubbed, will be the second in a sequence of marches planned to continue through mid-May.

The goal of the marches, Palestinians say, is to cross the border fence and return to their lands that became Israel seven decades ago.

Last Friday's march on the fence ended in violent confrontations, in what was the deadliest day in Gaza since the 2014 Gaza Israel war. Seventeen Palestinians were killed, and another two succumbed to their injuries a few days later. Israeli forces fired on marchers it said participated in violence.

Significantly smaller scale confrontations continued through the week, resulting in numerous incidents on land and extending to the sea. Israeli naval forces shot at a Palestinian fishing boat to force it into the "designated (6 mile) fishing zone," according to an Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) statement. Three fishermen were moderately injured, said the Palestinian Health Ministry in Gaza.

Other deadly incidents took place during the week, bringing the total death toll in one week to 20.

A Palestinian died following an overnight Israeli air strike Wednesday, the Palestinian Health Ministry in Gaza reported. The IDF said it targeted an "armed terrorist adjacent to the security fence" in northern Gaza.

Israel holds Hamas responsible for the events in Gaza, and says most of those killed are "known terror activists" from Hamas and Islamic Jihad.

Palestinians and human rights organizations accuse Israel of using excessive and illegal force on what they described as peaceful protesters.

Israeli human rights organization B'Tselem launched a campaign called "Sorry Commander, I cannot shoot" urging Israeli soldiers to refuse to shoot protesters. The organization says it is taking this step after "soldiers used live fire against unarmed demonstrators," which it says is illegal.

The Israeli defense minister called the organization a group of "fifth columnists."

The UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, Nickolay Mladenov, urged Israeli forces and Palestinians to exercise restraint, saying "demonstrations and protests must be allowed to proceed in a peaceful manner. Civilians, particularly children, must not be intentionally put in danger or targeted in any way."

Palestinian activists and the IDF continue to post social media videos to support their opposing claims about last week's violent events.

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