Hamas nixes Friday's Gaza border protest as violence with Israel tapers

The United Nations and Egypt have worked behind the scenes to restore the calm that has held since about 8 a.m.

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March 15, 2019 19:43
4 minute read.
Palestinians hurl stones at Israeli troops during a protest at the Israel-Gaza border fence, in the

Palestinians hurl stones at Israeli troops during a protest at the Israel-Gaza border fence, in the southern Gaza Strip February 15, 2019.. (photo credit: IBRAHEEM ABU MUSTAFA / REUTERS)

 
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Palestinians canceled the weekly Gaza border protest was cancelled Friday in the aftermath of 12-hours of violence between Hamas and Israel, that included two rockets launched at Tel Aviv.

The United Nations and Egypt have worked behind the scenes to restore the calm that has held since about 8 a.m.

The Palestinian decision to delay Friday's protests, known as the Great March of Return, was taken by the National Committee for the March of Return, a group consisting of several Gaza-based Palestinian factions.

The committee said it canceled the event out of "concern for our people" and in preparation for the mass protests planned for March 30 to mark Land Day.

It’s the first time since the protests began on March 30, 2018, that the weekly event, which includes violent classes between Palestinians and IDF soldiers, has been canceled.

In spite of the sudden calm, the IDF deployed Iron Dome batteries across central Israel. Thursday night’s attack, which did not lead to any casualties, marked the first time since the 2014 Gaza war, that rockets had been launched at central Israel.

The military said it believed the rockets were erroneously launched by Hamas.

“There is a growing assumption that the Hamas rocket fire towards the Gush Dan region was by mistake,” the military said Friday morning. According to reports those behind the launch were low-level Hamas militants.

On Friday the Israel Police announced that they had located the remains of one rocket which, according to reports, had fallen in an open area in the city of Holon outside of Tel Aviv. The second rocket is believed to have landed in the sea. There was no damage or injuries.

The IDF holds Hamas responsible for all rocket fire out of Gaza. Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad and other group all denied launching the rockets at Tel Aviv.

Hamas said it was attempting to prevent any further escalation of violence and promised to take action.

The IDF said that throughout the night it struck 100 targets in the Hamas-run Strip, including the headquarters of those responsible for the planning and execution of terror attacks in the West Bank.  In addition it hit an underground complex that served as Hamas' main rocket-manufacturing site, and a military training site that also functioned as the group’s drone program.

Several underground infrastructures and military compounds, including naval sites belonging to the group were also struck.

Local Palestinian media in Gaza said that Israeli naval vessels also took part in the strikes off the coast of Rafah.

The Hamas-run Gaza Health Ministry said that four Palestinians were wounded.

During the airstrikes three Red Alert incoming rocket siren were activated in Israeli communities bordering the southern Gaza Strip.

According to the military nine projectiles were launched from the Strip, with six being intercepted by the Iron Dome missile defense system, another fell inside Gaza. 

Pieces of shrapnel were discovered outside a school in the city of Sderot, but there were no reports of injuries or damage.

The missile launches come two weeks ahead of the one year anniversary of the Great Return March, which also falls on Land Day.

The Palestinians said that they are planning to mark Land Day by holding a general strike in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and east Jerusalem and stepping up the demonstrations along the Gaza-Israel border.

Land Day also coincides with the first anniversary of the weekly protests along the Gaza-Israel border.

Israel called on the United Nations Security Council to designate Hamas as a terror group and asked it to condemn the latest rocket attack.

"The terrorists that fired these rockets into Israel’s most populated civilian area did so while hiding behind Palestinians civilians in Gaza and exploiting them as human shields. Such an act constitutes a double war crime,” Israel’s Ambassador to the United Nations Danny Danon said on Friday.

“Such an act constitutes a double war crime. Israel will take any and all necessary actions to protect itself and its citizens from the unrelenting Palestinian terrorism we face. A terrorist organization that tries to harm Israel will encounter a relentless and uncompromising force,” he explained.

Danon added, "Any other nation facing this daily onslaught of terror attacks would not hesitate to act on behalf of the safety and security of its people. Israel must not be held to a different standard.”

The United States last year attempted and failed to pass a resolution at the UN General Assembly that condemned Hamas. On Monday the UN Human Rights Council is set to condemn Israeli military activity in Gaza and Israeli restrictions of the movement of goods and people into the strip.

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