Smoke rises after an explosion as Palestinians take part in a night protest held along the Gaza side of the border with Israel.
(photo credit: REUTERS/AMIR COHEN)
An IDF tank struck a Hamas position in the northern Gaza Strip Friday night in retaliation for explosive devices thrown across the security fence during violent riots.
The strike came after violent night time riots broke out across the Gaza border which saw several Palestinians wounded by IDF gunfire. Loud explosions were also heard through the night in communities in southern Israel after explosive devices went off in the Strip.
The violence on Friday night comes as the IDF prepares for thousands of Palestinians to violently riot across the fence to mark Land Day.
The military warned Palestinians not to approach or cross the security fence or risk being shot.
IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Aviv Kochavi examined the readiness of troops ahead of the expected violent riots on the Gaza border fence, the military said Friday evening.
“The Chief of Staff examined the preparedness in the Gaza Division area along the border fence and the main centers of disturbances in the area,” the IDF said in a statement, adding that during his visit Kochavi was presented with assessments of the troops and their response to various scenarios which could occur during the Land Day on Saturday.
Kochavi, who visited the Gaza Division met with the Head of the Southern Command Maj.-Gen. Hertzi Halevi, Commander of the Gaza Division Brig.-Gen. Eliezer Toledano, Brig.-Gen. Oded Basiok Commander of the 162nd Division , Commander of the Ga'ash Formation Brig.-Gen. Avi Gil, as well as other brigade commanders.
Basik, the IDF said, presented Kochavi with the readiness of the troops who had been deployed as part of reinforcements earlier in the week and with various operational plans for various scenarios of escalation.
Kochavi spoke with the commanders of the brigades and other commanders ahead of the events while observing the possible developments during and after them and the IDF's plans to confront these events.
“IDF troops continue to prepare for an escalation with a wide range of operational plans and are prepared for all events,” the IDF said.
The IDF said Thursday that troops had completed their operational preparations for the "Land Day" events and that a Division Headquarters, three infantry Brigades and an artillery unit were deployed to enhance the Southern Command.
In addition, the military said that the leave of all combat units that are currently assigned to the Southern Command has been cancelled.
“The forces are conducting briefings, readiness checks and training for a variety of possible scenarios,” read the IDF statement.
Israel’s security establishment is bracing for thousands of Palestinians to riot across the West Bank and Gaza Strip, marking Land Day and the one year anniversary of The Great Return March demonstrations along the Gaza front.
Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh called on “our Palestinian people in Gaza, the occupied West Bank, and abroad to participate in Land Day (March 30) and take part in the million-man march.”
Land Day commemorates the Israeli government’s expropriation of Arab-owned land in the Galilee on March 30 1976. Six unarmed Arab citizens were killed and hundreds wounded and arrested in the ensuing riots and confrontations with the IDF and police.
Last year on Land Day, Palestinians in the Gaza Strip began The Great Return Marches with thousands of Gazans violently demonstrating along the security fence with Israel demanding an end to the 12-year long blockade of the coastal enclave.
Head of IDF District Coordination and Liaison (DCL) to Gaza Iyad Sarhan commented on the expected escalations, saying that "the IDF will not stand for attempts at harming citizens, soldiers and the security fence. Any such violation will result in a severe response."
Sarhan was addressing the citizens of Gaza directly through Elmonsk, the Arabic-language Facebook page of the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories.
Sarhan made a point to mention that Hamas wasted their money on violent disturbances and pointless marches on the fence every Friday. He explained that the marches "did not advance or contribute" to the citizens of Gaza, "but only caused deaths and injuries as a result of the violent nature and terrorist acts of the demonstrations, which are completely absent from the definition of 'nonviolence.'"
"Your blood is more precious than all these marches," he wrote to the Gaza residents.
"The State of Israel is determined to continue to defend its citizens and will not tolerate rocket fire and terrorist acts," Sarhan continued. "Any such violation would provoke a harsh response. Protect your souls, keep away and keep innocent people away from the points of friction and terror in the Gaza Strip."
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