The IDF prepares for expected escalations throughout the weekend along the Gaza border, 2019..
(photo credit: IDF SPOKESPERSON'S UNIT)
Egyptian intelligence officials arrived in the Gaza Strip on Wednesday evening for talks with leaders of Hamas and other Palestinian groups about reaching truce understandings with Israel.
The Egyptian officials entered the Gaza Strip through the Erez border crossing and were scheduled to stay in the Hamas-ruled coastal enclave at least until Thursday.
The visit by the Egyptian General Intelligence Service officials was originally scheduled to take place earlier this week, but was delayed after the firing of the rocket from the Gaza Strip at the Kfar Saba region early Monday.
The visit comes ahead of mass protests that are scheduled to take place on Saturday to mark the first anniversary of the “March of Return” weekly demonstrations along the Gaza-Israel border. The anniversary coincides with Land Day, an annual commemoration of events that took place in Israel in 1976 after the Israeli government’s decision to expropriate thousands of hectares for state purposes in the North. Six Israeli-Arabs were then killed during clashes with Israeli police.
Sources in the Gaza Strip said that the Egyptian security officials are expected to pressure the leaders of Hamas and Islamic Jihad to honor the ceasefire understandings that were reached with Israel on Monday night under the auspices of Cairo.
The sources said that the Egyptians will also demand that the Palestinian factions in the Gaza Strip call on Palestinians to hold peaceful protests on Saturday and to avoid friction with the IDF.
Ismail Haniyeh, head of Hamas’s political bureau, on Wednesday made his first public appearance after his office was destroyed in an Israeli airstrike. Touring the rubbles of his office, Haniyeh said that the Palestinian “resistance has said its word, and the occupation has understood the message.” Haniyeh called on Palestinians to participate in events commemorating Land Day and the first anniversary of the “March of Return.” He said that his office would be rebuilt because it’s a “symbol of defiance and steadfastness.”
The organizers of the “March of Return” protests called for a general strike in the Gaza Strip on Saturday and urged Palestinians to take part in the planned demonstrations near the border with Israel. They also called on Palestinians to “preserve the peaceful and popular nature” of the protests so as not to give Israel “an excuse to shed our blood.”
Earlier Wednesday, IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Aviv Kochavi visited the Gaza Division and met with Brig.-Gen. Eliezer Toledano, along with the head of the Southern Command Maj.-Gen. Herzi Halevi.
“During the situational assessment the chief of staff was briefed on the readiness of troops and for various scenarios as well on the readiness of the additional troops that arrived in the past few days,” the army said in a statement, adding that operational plans were also discussed.
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