Palestinian rioters drag away the barbed wire near the security fence east of Khan Yunis.
A large crowd of rioters approaching the border, hidden by the smoke from burning tires (Facebook page of Shehab, May 11, 2018).
The damage done to the gas pipes (Facebook page of Hassan Aslih, May 12, 2018)
Isma’il Haniyeh uses a slingshot to fire a stone at IDF forces during the “Return March” in the central Gaza Strip (Twitter account of Palinfo, May 11, 2018)
Palestinians demonstrate in Rome to mark the 70th anniversary of the nakba.
Collecting tires for the marches planned for May 14 and 15, 2018 (Twitter account of Palinfo, May 11, 2018)
The funeral of Jaber Salem Abu Mustafa. His body was wrapped in a Hamas flag (Twitter account of Palinfo, May 12, 2018)
The Events of Friday, May 11, 2018
- In the ITIC’s assessment, the events of this past Friday, the seventh of the protest marches, were attended by about 15,000 demonstrators who gathered in seven locations along the Gaza Strip-Israel border. As they had on previous Fridays, they burned tires, threw rocks, stones, hand grenades and IEDs at IDF forces. Several rioters tried to sabotage the security fence. They also sent dozens of kites with Molotov cocktails tied to their tails to cause fires inside Israel. IDF forces used riot control measures to disperse the demonstrators, in accordance with IDF procedures for opening fire (IDF Spokesperson’s Office, May 11, 2018). The events peaked when hundreds of rioters broke into the Kerem Shalom crossing for the second week in a row, destroying vital equipment and damaging the fuel terminal and gas pipes.
Right: Palestinian rioters drag away the barbed wire near the security fence east of Khan Yunis. Left: Palestinians use a slingshot to hurl rocks at the IDF
(Facebook page of Shehab, May 11, 2018)
The dead and wounded
- In the riots this past Friday two Palestinians were killed: a 40-year-old man was hit in the chest east of Khan Yunis. A young man was critically wounded and later died. One of those killed was affiliated with Hamas and the other with Fatah. Several hundred rioters were wounded. Since the beginning of the marches, 48 Palestinians have been killed, 80% of them operatives in or affiliated with Hamas and the other terrorist organizations (see the Appendix).
Sabotage of vital installations and the Kerem Shalom crossing
- According to information from the IDF Spokesman, hundreds of millions of shekels worth of damage was done, which will have a significant impact on the passage of goods and supplies into the Gaza Strip. Among the facilities damaged were the fuel terminal, which can no longer be used; gas pipes; and the station connecting the main gas pipe, which became inoperative. Damage was also caused when the fuel pipe was set on fire at the fueling compound. The conveyor belt used for goods became inoperative. The electricity network, fences, lighting poles and cameras were also damaged (IDF Spokesperson’s Office, May 12, 2018).
Right: Palestinians burn the gas pipes on the Palestinian side of the Kerem Shalom crossing (IDF Spokesperson’s Office, May 12, 2018). Left: The damage done to the gas pipes
(Facebook page of Hassan Aslih, May 12, 2018)
The use of Molotov kites
- The organizers of the events, headed by Hamas, continue making extensive use of Molotov kites. During the Friday events, Molotov kites caused a number of fires in the fields of the communities in the western Negev near the Gaza Strip. The IDF used drones to cut the kites’ strings in an attempt to prevent the kites from entering Israeli territory.
Attendance of senior Hamas figures at the events and statements from Isma’il Haniyeh
- This past Friday, the heads of Hamas made sure to be present in the conflict areas (apparently to encourage the rioters to attend the events on May 14 and 15). Among those present were Isma’il Haniyeh, head of Hamas’ Political Bureau, and senior Hamas figures Khalil al-Hayya and Isma’il Radwan, who went to the demonstration sites east of Gaza City (Al-Aqsa, May 12, 2018). Ahmed Bahar, Deputy Speaker of the Palestinian Legislative Council, also attended events east of the Al-Bureij refugee camp (Dunia al-Watan, May 11, 2018).
Isma’il Haniyeh uses a slingshot to fire a stone at IDF forces during the “Return
March” in the central Gaza Strip (Twitter account of Palinfo, May 11, 2018)
- Yahya Sinwar, head of Hamas’ Political Bureau in the Gaza Strip, held a press conference for foreign correspondents in the Gaza Strip. He said that the “Return March” would continue and did not have a time limit. According to him, it is a “peaceful march” because they don’t recognize the border fence. Asked about the events planned for May 14, he said that no one could say what would happen exactly, but the only thing he could promise was that the activity would be conducted by “peaceful means” (Hamas website, May 12, 2018).
Hamas support for Gazans wounded in the events
- Hamas continues to provide money for demonstrators wounded in the events. This past week Hamas announced that it would provide additional medical aid for 247 demonstrators. Thirteen Palestinians who had been critically wounded would receive $500 apiece and 234 who had been seriously wounded would receive $200 apiece. According to Hamas, so far the organization had provided half a million dollars in aid to Palestinians wounded during the Return March events (Filastin al-Yawm, May 9, 2018).
Palestinians demonstrate in front of the Israeli embassy in London to mark the 70th anniversary of the nakba (Facebook page of QudsN, May 11, 2018; Al-Arabi al-Jadeed, May 12, 2018)
Right: Palestinians demonstrate in Rome to mark the 70th anniversary of the nakba. Left: Palestinian demonstration in Denmark (Twitter account of Palinfo, May 12, 2018)
Continuation to be expected
- Hamas and the other terrorist organizations are currently trying to mobilize the Palestinian public to ensure mass participation at the events on May 14 and 15. They say they are expected to mark the climax, but not the end, of the “Great Return March.” On May 14 and 15 they are planning for a massive Palestinian penetration into Israeli territory (“the March of the Million”). In the ITIC’s assessment, it will be accompanied by considerable violence and perhaps terrorist attacks as well. At the same time, calls continue for Palestinians in Judea and Samaria and for Israeli Arabs to join the “March of the Million.”
Notice posted to Hamas websites calling on Palestinians to join the
“March of the Million” on May 14, 2018 (Twitter account of Safa, May 13, 2018)
Notice calling on Palestinians to join the protest in Jerusalem, at the closest
possible location to the new American embassy at 16:00 on May 14, 2018
(Twitter account of Palinfo, May 12, 2018)
- In the meantime, practical preparations continue for planned clashes with IDF soldiers. A “laser unit” has reportedly been established to distract IDF soldiers and snipers, and to disrupt cameras and IDF drones (Dunia al-Watan, May 11, 2018). Hospitals have announced they will be on alert during May 14 and 15. Waging the battle for hearts and minds, Palestinians sent notices in Arabic and broken Hebrew targeting Israelis living in the communities near the Gaza Strip. The notices were signed, “the [land] owners.” The notices call on them to evacuate their homes and return to the countries they came from, stressing the intention of the Palestinians to return to their homes and to realize the “right of return” (Twitter account of Samer, May 13, 2018).
Right: The notice distributed by Palestinians calling on Israelis living near the Gaza Strip to evacuate their homes (Twitter account of Samer, May 13, 2018). Left: Collecting tires for the marches planned for May 14 and 15, 2018 (Twitter account of Palinfo, May 11, 2018)
- As part of their tactical preparations for clashes, the organizers of the demonstrations plan to increase the number of gathering sites along the border from which large crowds will break into Israeli territory. Their objective is to exhaust the IDF forces and prevent them from focusing their responses at the familiar gathering and breakthrough locations. According to the “Great Return March” Facebook page, participants will be divided into groups of 2,000 to 3,000 demonstrators. Each group will nominate a leader who will be supplied with a communications device, enabling him to lead his group in accordance with instructions. Each group will be accompanied by a journalist who will be responsible for reporting live on the events. In the camps (a few hundred meters from the border) there will be a command room that will monitor the movement of the demonstrators and direct them. Medical teams will also be recruited, field hospitals will be set up and there will be vehicles to evacuate the wounded.
The IDF’s response
- For the climax of the marches, the IDF’s Southern Command is preparing for thousands of demonstrators, including women and children, who will attend the demonstrations, and thousands who will try to break through the fence. The IDF estimates that there will be about 100,000 demonstrators on May 14 and 15 (article in Haaretz by Amos Harel, May 13, 2018). The IDF therefore decided to significantly reinforce its presence along the border by three brigades.
- Israeli army forces will have a twofold mission: to preserve Israeli sovereignty by preventing the Palestinians demonstrators from crossing the border, and at the same time try not to harm those who are unarmed. The IDF also briefed the forces to be prepared for extreme possible scenarios, such as attempts to carry out shooting attacks, to plant IEDs under cover of the mass demonstrations, or to abduct a soldier. In Jerusalem and in routine friction zones in Judea and Samaria, the IDF will reinforce its forces lest the events in the Gaza Strip spill over into those areas as well (Ynet, May 13, 2018).
The identities of the Palestinians killed during the “Great Return March”
- According to the Hamas-controlled Ministry of Health in the Gaza Strip, two Palestinians were killed on Friday, May 11, 2018. One was a 40-year-old man who was shot in the chest in clashes east of Khan Yunis. The other was a young man who was seriously wounded and later died. Several hundred other Palestinians were wounded. So far, according to the Ministry of Health in the Gaza Strip, 48 Palestinians have been killed during the Friday demonstrations. The numbers do not include those killed in the middle of the week (i.e., not on Fridays), especially Palestinians who tried to cross into Israeli territory. The statistics are consistent with those of the ITIC.
- The Palestinians killed on May 11, 2018, were:
- Jaber Salem Abu Mustafa, 40, from the Ma’an region of Khan Yunis. He was shot in the chest east of Khan Yunis (Facebook page of Ashraf al-Qudra, May 11, 2018). His funeral was held on May 12, 2018, in Khan Yunis. His body was wrapped in a Hamas flag (Palinfo, May 12, 2018).
- Jamal Abd al-Rahman Afana, 15, died on May 12, 2018, after having been wounded in the head on May 11, 2018, in the eastern part of Rafah (Facebook page of Ashraf al-Qudra, May 11, 2018). The Rafah branch of the Fatah movement issued a death notice for him, calling him a shaheed of the movement (Twitter account of the Fatah movement in the Gaza Strip, May 12, 2018).
Summary of the identities of the fatalities of the “Great Return March”
Note: More than 80% of the fatalities of the “Great Return March” (39 people) were terrorist operatives or individuals affiliated with terrorist organizations. It is worth noting that most of the fatalities were members of Hamas or affiliated with it. Nine of the fatalities were not affiliated with any organization and were presumably civilians.