A Palestinian reacts during a protest calling for lifting the Israeli blockade on Gaza and demanding the right to return to their homeland, at the Israel-Gaza border fence in the southern Gaza Strip October 5, 2018. .
(photo credit: IBRAHEEM ABU MUSTAFA / REUTERS)
Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman ordered the Gaza fishing zone be reduced to from nine to six nautical miles on Saturday following violent protests along the security fence with Israel.
“The defense minister has instructed that preparations be made for additional measures if the violence continues,” read a statement from Liberman’s office.
The reduction was made following a security assessment with the IDF, Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) Maj.-Gen. Kamil Abu Rokon and the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency).
Earlier Saturday the Israel Navy detained a Palestinian fishing boat that had exceeded the authorized fishing area. Two Palestinian brothers, identified as Safwat and Rifaat Zayid, were arrested while fishing offshore of the al-Sudaniya district in the northern Gaza Strip.
In late September, Rokon warned Gazans residents against cooperating with Hamas, threatening to reduce the fishing zone to three nautical miles if the “daily terror attacks continue.”
Three Palestinians, including a 12-year-old-boy, were killed during Friday’s protest along the Gaza border fence. Hundreds more were injured.
The fatalities were identified by the Palestinian Health Ministry as 14-year-old Fares Hafez al-Sersawi, 24-year-old Mahmud Akram Mohammed Abu Samane and 28-year-old Hussein al-Raqab.
The official Wafa news agency reported that 376 people were injured, including 126 by live gunfire. The report said the injured included a female journalist and a paramedic.
According to the IDF Spokesperson’s Unit, more than 20,000 protesters took part in Friday’s violent demonstrations, throwing explosive devices, grenades and stones at IDF troops, and burning tires.
Incendiary aerial devices were also launched into southern Israel from the coastal enclave during the protests, causing several fires in the Gaza vicinity. A report by Yediot Aharonot said some 2,000 fires have been started in the South over the past six months by flaming kites, balloons and inflated condoms, ravaging more than 2,800 hectares.
Troops also spotted a group of 10 Palestinians who crossed into Israel, threw grenades near the security fence and immediately returned to Gaza. No soldiers were injured.
The IDF responded to the violence and attempted sabotage of the fence with crowd dispersal techniques, in accordance with open-fire regulations. Palestinians also reported that sponge-tipped bullets were used by IDF troops for the first time since the Great March of Return demonstrations began on March 30.
Israeli aircraft also carried out two air strikes against Hamas positions in response to the violence.
IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Gadi Eisenkot toured the border area during Friday’s riots to conduct a situational assessment with the head of the southern command Maj.-Gen. Hertzi Halevy and Gaza Division Commander Brig.-Gen. Yehuda Fuchs.
“The chief of staff expressed his great admiration for the soldiers and commanders who work every day against the security challenges in the Gaza Strip and enable residents [of the South] to live their lives securely,” the army said in a statement.
On Thursday the army announced it was reinforcing troops in southern Israel to prevent terrorist infiltration into Israel from the Gaza Strip. The IDF also deployed the Iron Dome missile defense system over concerns of mortars and rockets being fired from the blockaded coastal enclave.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addressed the situation during a meeting with German Foreign Affairs Minister Heiko Maas on Friday, saying, “Israel will act decisively toward Gaza over any action against Israel and the residents of the South.”
On the same day, Liberman took to Twitter to warn Hamas that the IDF had not responded harshly to riots during the Jewish holidays to prevent an all-out conflict.
“We got through the High Holy Days just as we had planned, without a war erupting and while exacting a heavy price from the rioters on the Gaza border. But the holidays are now behind us, and I tell the heads of Hamas: Take that into account,” he wrote.
Close to 200 Palestinians have been killed and thousands others injured since the outbreak of the protests more than six months ago. The protests have called for an end of Israel’s 12-year blockade of the Gaza Strip and for the “right of return” to Israel f