The “Great Return March” Events of April 13, 2018

Palestinians burn Israeli flags (Palinfo Twitter account, April 13, 2018).

Palestinians burn Israeli flags (Palinfo Twitter account, April 13, 2018).

Children were also brought to the confrontation zone (Palinfo Twitter account, April 13, 2018).

Children were also brought to the confrontation zone (Palinfo Twitter account, April 13, 2018).

The funeral held for Islam Harzallah. His body is wrapped in a Hamas flag (Facebook page of al-Risalah, April 14, 2018).

The funeral held for Islam Harzallah. His body is wrapped in a Hamas flag (Facebook page of al-Risalah, April 14, 2018).

The leadership of Hamas' security forces in Gaza, headed by Na'im al-Ghoul, visit Mahmoud Harzallah to offer condolences on the death of his son, killed during the riots on the previous Friday in the eastern Gaza Strip (Facebook page of the national security forces in Gaza, April 15, 2018).

The leadership of Hamas' security forces in Gaza, headed by Na'im al-Ghoul, visit Mahmoud Harzallah to offer condolences on the death of his son, killed during the riots on the previous Friday in the eastern Gaza Strip (Facebook page of the national security forces in Gaza, April 15, 2018).

Overview[1]
  • On Friday, April 13, 2018, the third Friday of the “great return march,” rioting at the border fence began in the morning. Events were held at five focal points along the border, and included burning Israeli flags. About 10,000 Palestinians participated, also burning tires to spoil the snipers’ ability to fire, throwing stones and flying kites over Israeli territory (some of them attached to Molotov cocktails). There were a number of attempts to vandalize the barbed wire fence strung parallel to the border security fence, as well as attempts to cross the fence into Israeli territory. In addition, a number of terrorist attacks were attempted under cover of the riots (IDF spokesperson, April 13, 2018).
 Palestinians riot and attempt to vandalize the barbed wire fence (IDF spokesperson, April 13, 2018).   Video documenting Palestinians placing an IED near the Karni crossing. The device exploded and may have wounded Palestinians.
Right: Video documenting Palestinians placing an IED near the Karni crossing. The device exploded and may have wounded Palestinians. Left: Palestinians riot and attempt to vandalize the barbed wire fence (IDF spokesperson, April 13, 2018).[2]
  • IDF forces used crowd control measures to combat the rioters and shot at the main instigators in accordance with IDF orders for opening fire (IDF spokesperson, April 13, 2018). The events were relatively less intense than on previous Fridays (the number of participants has decreased over time), and there were fewer casualties. The Hamas leadership was conspicuously absent this past Friday, with only junior commanders on the ground. The march organizers have decided that next Friday, April 20, 2018, will be “the Friday of the shaheeds and prisoners.”
  • Hamas still successfully motivates a relatively large number of people to attend the events. However, the numbers are gradually declining and it is apparently difficult to recruit the massive crowds that participated on the first Friday. In both the internal Palestinian and pan-Arab arenas the marches have not prompted large-scale events in solidarity with the Gaza Strip (there have been local events in Judea and Samaria and a number of demonstrations in the Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon). References to the march on the social networks are few, relative to the events of the first Friday.
  • Hamas and the organizers of the events will apparently make an effort to preserve the tension along the border at least until May 15, 2018 (Nakba Day). Friday, April 20, 2018, has been designated as “the Friday of the shaheeds and prisoners,” a subject close to the hearts of many Palestinians. That may succeed in motivating more demonstrators to go to the border fence and may also motivate the residents of Judea and Samaria to hold their own events.
Events of April 13, 2018
Summary
  • On Friday, April 13, 2018, the third Friday of the “great return march” campaign, riots began in the morning. IDF forces who were deployed for another day of riots and demonstrations were reinforced and dozens of snipers were posted along the border. A number of locations near the border were declared closed military zones. IDF forces used crowd control measures to disperse the riots and shot at the main instigators in accordance with IDF instructions for opening fire (IDF spokesperson, April 13, 2018).
  • The events centered around burning Israeli flags (the day was called “the Friday of burning Israeli flags”) and took place at five focal points along the Gaza-Israel border. About 10,000 Palestinians participated, also burning tires to spoil the snipers’ ability to fire, throwing stones and flying kites over Israeli territory. Despite the smaller number of participants, there were violent activities as well as a number of attempts to vandalize the barbed wire fence the IDF had strung parallel to the border security fence. Some Gazans tried to cross the fence into Israeli territory. There were also attempts to carry out terrorist attacks under cover of the riots (see below)
Palestinians burn tires near the border fence (Palinfo Twitter account, April 13, 2018).   Palestinians burn tires near the border fence (Palinfo Twitter account, April 13, 2018).
Palestinians burn tires near the border fence (Palinfo Twitter account, April 13, 2018).
Attempts to vandalize the barbed wire fence parallel to the border fence in the Gaza Strip (Facebook page of Shehab, April 13, 2018).  Attempts to vandalize the barbed wire fence parallel to the border fence in the Gaza Strip (Facebook page of Shehab, April 13, 2018).

Attempts to vandalize the barbed wire fence parallel to the border fence in the Gaza Strip (Facebook page of Shehab, April 13, 2018).
Attempts to vandalize the barbed wire fence parallel to the border fence in the Gaza Strip (Facebook page of Shehab, April 13, 2018).

Palestinians burn Israeli flags during the "great return march" on April 13, 2018 (Facebook page of al-Risalah, April 13, 2018).   Palestinians burn Israeli flags during the "great return march" on April 13, 2018 (Facebook page of al-Risalah, April 13, 2018).
Palestinians burn Israeli flags during the “great return march” on April 13, 2018 (Facebook page of al-Risalah, April 13, 2018).
  • The Palinfo website published an article about the active involvement of Palestinian women in the “great return march.” The article was accompanied by pictures of women arriving at the tent sites erected near the border fence, and women participating in protest rallies and clashes with IDF forces (Palinfo, April 14, 2018).

Palestinian women actively participate in clashes with IDF forces on the Gaza border(Palinfo, April 14, 2018).
Palestinian women actively participate in clashes with IDF forces on the Gaza border(Palinfo, April 14, 2018).

Attempts to carry out attacks under the cover of riots
  • Under cover of the riots there were a number of attempted terrorist attacks (IDF spokesperson, April 13, 2018):
    • In the region of the Karni crossing, near the Sajaiya neighborhood, an IED was placed a few meters from the fence. It exploded on the Gazan side of the fence and apparently wounded several Palestinians.
    • A Palestinian threw a suspicious object, apparently an IED, a few meters from the border fence. Next to him were journalists and a man on crutches (see video above).
    • An attempt was made to fly a kite with a Molotov cocktail attached to set fire to Israeli fields near the border fence.
Wounded
  • During the riots one Palestinian was killed by IDF fire. More than 900 Palestinians were wounded. An infographic published by the Hamas-controlled ministry of health in the Gaza Strip showed the distribution of the wounded. It reported one Palestinian killed in the eastern Gaza Strip and 969 wounded at five clash points along the border (Facebook page of al-Risalah, April 13, 2018). Since the “great return march” began on March 30, 2018, 34 Palestinians have been killed.[3]

Infographic issued by the Hamas-controlled ministry of health in Gaza (Facebook page of al-Risalah, April 13, 2018).
Infographic issued by the Hamas-controlled ministry of health in Gaza (Facebook page of al-Risalah, April 13, 2018).

  • The ministry of health in the Gaza Strip reported the death of Islam Mahmoud Harzallah, 28, from eastern Gaza City, who was wounded while participating in the “great return march” in eastern Gaza City (Sama News, April 13, 2018). His father, Mahmoud Harzallah, is an operative in Hamas’ national security forces. Islam Harzallah’s body was wrapped for burial in a Hamas flag. A Hamas poster was hung in the mourning tent erected by the family. The popular resistance movement in the Gaza Strip claimed he belonged to its ranks (Palinfo Twitter account, April 15, 2018).
 Isma'il Haniyeh, head of Hamas' political bureau, and senior Hamas figure Khalil al-Haya arrive to offer condolences to the family of Islam Harzallah (Palinfo Twitter account, April 15, 2018).   The funeral held for Islam Harzallah. His body is wrapped in a Hamas flag (Facebook page of al-Risalah, April 14, 2018).
Right: The funeral held for Islam Harzallah. His body is wrapped in a Hamas flag (Facebook page of al-Risalah, April 14, 2018). Left: Isma’il Haniyeh, head of Hamas’ political bureau, and senior Hamas figure Khalil al-Haya arrive to offer condolences to the family of Islam Harzallah (Palinfo Twitter account, April 15, 2018).
Preparations for the events
  • Before the events on Friday, possibly because of concern there would be little public interest, vehicles mounted with loud speakers drove through the streets in Gaza calling on the Palestinian public to participate in the march. The social networks posted videos showing how to burn Israeli flags.
  • In light of the large number of casualties during the previous demonstrations, the health services erected a field hospital in every encampment. The health services complained of a shortage of equipment to treat the wounded.
  • In light of the death of a journalist, killed by IDF fire on April 6, 2018, orders were issued for journalists to wear prominent clothing and protective vests and helmets with “Press” written on them. They were also asked to provide themselves with gas masks (Twitter account of Amama, April 12, 2018).[4]
  • Activists from the popular committees organizing the events wrote to the press that “great return march” events should not be exploited for partisan interests and that participation was to be non-violent. Azmi al-Shukhi, secretary general of the popular committees, called on participants to wave the Palestinian flag and hold pictures of those who had been killed during the demonstrations, including those who belonged to the “resistance” [i.e., the terrorist organizations] (Ma’an, April 12, 2018). Ahmed Abu Ratima, spokesman for the march, called on all the participants to demonstrate non-violently. He also objected to calling Friday, April 20, “the Friday of Molotov cocktails” (alresala.net, April 12, 2018).
  • On the day of the march Hamas’ security forces were deployed along the roads leading to the confrontation points along the border. Many ambulances were also driven to the area (Facebook page of the national security forces in the Gaza Strip, April 13, 2018).
Shows of solidarity
  • In Judea and Samaria there have been almost no shows of solidarity with the events in the Gaza Strip. The residents of the Palestinian refugee camps in Beirut and Sidon held demonstrations where they burned Israeli flags (Safa, April 14, 2018).
Appeal to the UN
  • Riyadh al-Maliki, PA representative to the UN, sent another communiqué to the president of the Security Council, the UN Secretary General and the president of the General Assembly. In it he claimed the Palestinian people had chosen to demonstrate “non-violently” to struggle against Israel. Nevertheless, he claimed, Israel was using aggressive measures against the Palestinians and had issued orders to the IDF soldiers to use live ammunition, rubber bullets and tear gas against the demonstrators. He called for Israel to be brought to trial and for the Palestinian people to be protected from Israel’s activities (Wafa, April 13, 2018).
  • UN Secretary General António Guterres called for an independent investigation and exposure of the violence between the Palestinians and Israel along the Gaza Strip border. He said that during recent events there had been many unnecessary deaths. He called on both sides to avoid actions that would injure more people (Dunia al-Watan, April 14, 2018).
Forecast
  • The events of this coming Friday, April 20, 2018, will be dedicated to the shaheeds and imprisoned Palestinians, and preparations are in full swing.

Piles of tires in the centers of Gazan cities in preparation for transporting them to focal confrontation points along the border fence with Israel for the next event (Palinfo Twitter account, April 14, 2018).
Piles of tires in the centers of Gazan cities in preparation for transporting them to focal confrontation points along the border fence with Israel for the next event (Palinfo Twitter account, April 14, 2018).

[1] For information about previous events, see the April 10, 2018 bulletin, "The "Great Return March," Interim Report (Updated to April 9, 2018)."
[2] Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum said burning Israeli flags send a message to the world that the Palestinian people owned the land and would decide everything concerning it (Safa, April 13, 2018).

[3] For the identities of those killed see the April 12, 2018 bulletin, "Initial Analysis of the Identities of Gazans Killed During the "Great Return March" on March 30 and April 6, 2018."

[4] For the circumstances of the journalist's death, see the April 10, 2018 bulletin, "The killing of Palestinian press photographer Yasser Murtaja by the IDF during the events of the Great March of Return highlighted a phenomenon of operatives of Hamas employed as media personnel."