The "return march" in the eastern Gaza Strip (Palinfo Twitter account, October 12, 2018).
The "return march" in the eastern Gaza Strip (Palinfo Twitter account, October 12, 2018).
Operatives of the bow and arrow group in eastern Rafah (Supreme National Authority of the Great Return March Facebook page, October 12, 2018; Ma'an, October 13, 2018).
Tanker with fuel paid for by Qatar crosses into the Gaza Strip through the Kerem Shalom Crossing (Gaza Now Facebook page, October 9, 2018).
Isma'il Haniyeh choking on tear gas or smoke in eastern Gaza City (Shehab Twitter account, October 12, 2018).
The Sons of al-Zouari balloon group launches a giant balloon from the central Gaza Strip, threatening the Israeli communities near the border. The Hebrew reads, "If this is our fate, we won't suffer alone" (Palinfo Twitter account, October 12, 2018).
Isma'il Haniyeh speaking at the funeral of one of the Gazans killed in the "return march" (Shehab Facebook page, October 12, 2018).
- On Friday, October 12, 2018, Gazan rioters again held “return march” events at the Israel-Gaza border. It was the 29th consecutive Friday since the marches began on March 30, 2018. This past Friday about 15,000 Gazan participated (about 5,000 fewer than on October 5, 2018). They rioted, hurling dozens of hand grenades and IEDs at the Israeli security forces. About 20 rioters tried to cross the fence into Israeli territory. Four approached an IDF post and were shot and killed.
- The level of violence was particularly high with extensive use made of hand grenades and IEDs. There was also a rise in the number of attempts to cross the security fence and an increase in arson terrorism. So far, the terrorist organizations, headed by Hamas, apparently have no intention of putting an end to the riots. The leaders of the organizations repeatedly call on the public to continue and increase their participation. There has also been an increase in the tactics and degree of boldness employed, institutionalized by the terrorist organizations through the establishment of new groups whose clashes with IDF soldiers are systematic and structured.
- In response to forceful penetrations into Israeli territory and the high level of violence employed by the rioters, the Israeli defense minister decided to ban the entrance of diesel fuel and cooking gas into the Gaza Strip, beginning October 14, 2018. At the start of the government meeting on October 14, 2018, the Israeli prime minister called on Hamas to put an end to the riots, threatening painful reprisals. The defense minister also warned of a tough Israeli response, but said that before a war all other options had to be exhausted (Ynet, October 14, 2018).
The “Return Marches”
The “return march,” October 12, 2018
- The slogan of the Friday, October 12 “return marches” was “the Jerusalem intifada.” About 15,000 Gazans participated (as opposed to October 5, 2018). In preparation for the marches Gazans collected scores of tires for burning (Shabakat Quds, October 12, 2018). Buses were organized to leave from the mosques and other locations after the Friday prayers to transport participants to the “return camps” (Facebook page of the night harassment group, October 10, 2018).
Gazans take tires for burning to the central Gaza Strip (Palinfo Twitter account, October 12, 2018).
- Gazans rioted at the five usual locations along the border security fence. They burned tires, and hurled Molotov cocktails and stones at IDF forces. They also threw hand grenades and IEDs. No Israeli casualties were reported.
Gazan rioters use a machine to create a smokescreen during a riot in eastern Jabalia (Facebook page of photographer Anas Jamal al-Darif, October 12, 2018).
- The riots and the violence of the “return marches” are becoming formally institutionalized and organized. The organizers reported that in addition to the incendiary balloon-launching group, the tire-burning group and the so-called “night harassment group,” two other groups would be established: the “bow and arrow group,” which would shoot burning arrows at IDF soldiers; and the “smokescreen-production group,” which would make it difficult for the IDF to operate against the demonstrators (Ma’an, October 13, 2018).
Operatives of the bow and arrow group in eastern Rafah (Supreme National Authority of the Great Return March Facebook page, October 12, 2018; Ma’an, October 13, 2018).
Gazan rioters cross the security fence
- During the riots a number of attempts were made to cross the security fence. Most of the Gazans who tried to cross the border returned immediately to the Gaza Strip. A Gazan who crossed the fence in the northern Gaza Strip was detained near the crossing point and taken for interrogation (IDF spokesperson, October 12, 2018).
Gazans drag a barbed wire fence near the security fence in eastern al-Bureij (QudsN Twitter account, October 12, 2018).
Right: The knife found at the scene of the al-Bureij event (IDF website, October 12, 2018). Left: Mourning poster issued by Hamas and its military wing in al-Bureij for Muhammad Abd al-Hafiz Yusuf Isma’il (Supreme National Authority of the Great Return March Facebook page, October 13, 2018).
- In response to the attempts to enter Israeli territory, Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman decided to ban the entrance of diesel fuel and cooking gas from Israeli territory into the Gaza Strip, beginning October 14, 2018 and until further notice. Note: On October 9, 2018, Israel authorized the entrance of diesel fuel into the Gaza Strip through the Kerem Shalom Crossing, funded by Qatar and supervised by the UN. The fuel was for the power plant that provides electricity to the Gaza Strip (Gaza Now Facebook page, October 9, 2018).
- Israel threatened a response to the events. At the start of the weekly government meeting Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu called on Hamas to put an end to the riots, threatening that Israel was close to implementing a strong blow in response to the events in the Gaza Strip. Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman said in an interview that Hamas had turned the violence at the fence into a strategic weapon which it wants to use to erode Israel’s deterrent capabilities. He said that after months of riots at the border fence and incendiary balloons that set fire to Israel’s fields, the time had come to strike a powerful blow at Hamas. However, he added, before going to war all other options had to be exhausted (Ynet, October 14, 2018).
“Return march” casualties
- A spokesman for the ministry of health in the Gaza Strip said that seven Gazans had been killed during the “return marches” on October 12, 2018. Four of them were killed in the al-Bureij event. In addition, 252 demonstrators had been wounded (Facebook page of Ashraf al-Qidra, October 12, 2018).
- Isma’il Haniyeh, head of Hamas’ political bureau, who was in the area of the Karni Crossing, was apparently affected by IDF tear gas inhalation, or possibly by smoke from the tires burned by the rioters.
- Regarding the Gazans killed during the events, Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) spokesman Da’ud Shehab claimed Israel was responsible, saying that the killing of [demonstration] participants in cold blood was “aggression and terrorism.” He said the events were being studied and assessed (Filastin al-Yawm, October 12, 2018). Senior PIJ figure Ahmed al-Mudallal said the “resistance” [i.e., the terrorist organizations] would not remain silent about the “crimes” carried out against the Palestinian people, and that without a doubt a response would be forthcoming (Paltoday, October 12, 2018).
Isma’il Haniyeh choking on tear gas or smoke in eastern Gaza City (Shehab Twitter account, October 12, 2018).
Future activities planned in the Gaza Strip
- The Supreme National Authority of the Great Return March reported that the slogan for the “return march” activities of October 19, 2018, would be “Together the Gaza Strip rises up and the West Bank joins it” (Amama Twitter account, October 12, 2018).
- The Supreme National Authority of the Great Return March announced a press conference would be held on Monday, when it would report on the 12th mini-flotilla, supposed to be held on October 15, 2018. On the same day a demonstration will be held on the Zikim beach, and transportation will be made available so that many activists can attend.
- Recently the number of balloons launched with IEDs attached to them has increased significantly. In some instances they reached locations dozens of miles from the Gaza Strip. Some of them landed in educational institutions and the yards of private houses, causing damage. According to the police in Israel’s southern district, the balloons, which look harmless, have a cigarette attached to a fuse that is supposed to keep burning as long as the balloon is in the air. Some of them have explosives attached. Some of the incendiary balloons were located in central Israel and along the coast (Rishon Letzion, Bat-Yam and Modi’in) and even in the Jerusalem area, although it is doubtful that they came from the Gaza Strip. The Israeli security forces are searching for the launchers (Ynet, October 14, 2018).
The Sons of al-Zouari balloon group launches a giant balloon from the central Gaza Strip, threatening the Israeli communities near the border. The Hebrew reads, “If this is our fate, we won’t suffer alone” (Palinfo Twitter account, October 12, 2018).
Incendiary balloon that landed near Rishon Letzion (central Israel) (Palinfo Twitter account, October 12, 2018).
Statements from senior Hamas figures
- As they have every Friday, this past week senior figures from Hamas, the PIJ and other terrorist organizations participated in the marches. Encouraged by the widespread participation in the events on Fridays and during the week, they have stated that the marches and accompanying events will continue. Some of them also threatened the escalate the marches with “armed resistance.”
- Isma’il Haniyeh, head of Hamas’ political bureau, speaking at the funeral of one of the Gazans killed during the marches, said they were not being held for the sake of diesel fuel or dollars, but because it was the “natural right” of the Palestinian people to demand the lifting of the siege. He said partial solutions were not enough for the marches (“the marches of the blessed jihad”) which began more than half a year ago, but only the full lifting of the siege of the Gaza Strip would suffice. He said the uprising of the Palestinian people would continue until the siege had been lifted, and would extend “to Jerusalem, to al-Aqsa mosque and to all the land of Palestine” (al-Jazeera, October 12, 2018).
- Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum said the mass participation in “return march” activities was a new development for the “great return march.” He emphasized the marches would continue (Shabakat Quds Twitter account, October 12, 2018).
- The Supreme National Authority of the Great Return March and Lifting the Siege held a press conference east of Gaza City, where senior Hamas figure Isma’il Radwan said the “return marches” would continue as part of the struggle of the Palestinian people against attempts to eliminate it and to fight against the siege. He also stressed “the [so-called] non-violent nature” of the marches (al-Aqsa TV, October 12, 2018).
- Senior PIJ figure Khaled al-Batsh said partial solutions for the crises in the lives of the Gazans would not stop the “return marches.” He called on all Gazans to participate in them (al-Ghad, October 10, 2018). On another occasion he said that the marches would continue in two formats: peaceful “popular activities,” and with the use of the weapons of the “resistance,” which would defend the marches. He said that was the position all the organizations had agreed on, adding that the residents of the West Bank had no alternative but to join the popular activities and the “return marches” (al-Mayadeen, October 12, 2018).
Khalil al-Haya (second from left), a member of Hamas’ political bureau, and Mustafa Barghouti, secretary general of the Palestinian National Initiative, at the “return camp” in eastern Gaza City (Palestine Online Twitter account, October 12, 2018). Barghouti came to Gaza from Ramallah, apparently through the Rafah Crossing, in ITIC assessment to show solidarity with the “return marches.”