AS WE stood on the border and looked across the field at the Gaza Strip, we saw the Palestinian flag fluttering.’ .
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Some 7,500 Palestinians violently demonstrated along the Gaza border on Friday. At least 41 protesters were injured by IDF troops, who used riot dispersal means including live fire. Palestinian media reported that 22 protesters were injured by live bullets and another 19 by rubber-coated rounds.
IDF troops detained two Palestinians during the protests who were suspected of infiltrating the border into Israeli territory. One of the detainees was unarmed and the other was in possession of a knife.
Both were taken in for questioning by security forces, the IDF Spokesperson’s Unit said.
Thousands of Gazans have been violently protesting along the security fence on a weekly basis as part of the “Great Return March” demonstrations which began last year, calling for an end of Israel’s 12-year blockade of the Gaza Strip. According to the Palestinian Health Ministry in Gaza, more than 300 Palestinians have been killed and about 17,000 others have been injured by the IDF since the protests began.
Israeli officials confirmed last week that new understandings had been reached between Israel and Hamas regarding a possible long-term ceasefire arrangement. According to a report by KAN, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu approved a series of measures to ease restrictions on the blockaded coastal enclave as part of the understandings with Hamas.
The easing includes allowing 18 previously blacklisted goods to enter Gaza, including agricultural fertilizer and steel cables for use by large fishing boats. Israel also agreed to increase the number of goods that merchants are allowed to export to Israel, including iron doors, aluminum housewares and toys. Israel also agreed to extend the fishing zone off the Gaza coast to 15 nautical miles and to restore the supply of fuel to the Palestinian territory.
The IDF believes that while Hamas is not interested in a long military conflict with Israel, the terrorist group might spark a short period of intense fighting. That would bolster its negotiating position for a ceasefire that – with the help of the international community – would allow the group improve economic and humanitarian conditions.
A study released last month by the Academic Institute for Structural Reforms found that close to half of Israelis are in favor of removing the blockade on the Hamas-run Gaza Strip. The study, carried out by the Panel Project, surveyed a sample of 608 Jews and Arabs. It examined the attitudes of the Israeli public toward Gaza, its economic situation in relation to violence, the effectiveness of Israel’s policy toward the Strip, and possible solutions for the economic and humanitarian crisis.
According to the study’s findings, 80% of respondents think the economic situation in Gaza is “difficult to severe,” with another 61% agreeing that the difficult economic situation in Gaza is directly related to the violent conflict between Hamas and Israel. Some 60% of those polled acknowledged that poverty, unemployment and economic hardship increase radicalizing effect on Gaza’s population, more than Israeli military operations do.
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