High alert on Gaza border after string of incursions

"We will not allow a violation of Israeli sovereignty and we will use force if necessary."

A demonstrator holds a Palestinian flag as he shouts during clashes with Israeli troops, near the border with Israel in the southern Gaza Strip March 2, 2018. (photo credit: IBRAHEEM ABU MUSTAFA / REUTERS)
A demonstrator holds a Palestinian flag as he shouts during clashes with Israeli troops, near the border with Israel in the southern Gaza Strip March 2, 2018.
A string of illegal crossings from the Gaza Strip into Israel have left the IDF on high alert. The IDF arrested a suspect who crossed into Israeli territory from the northern Gaza Strip Wednesday, according to the IDF Spokesperson's Unit.
The suspect, who was unarmed, was arrested near the breach point and was taken in for questioning by security forces.
Hours earlier, IDF tanks shelled two Hamas observation posts after two Palestinians were spotted near the old Karni crossing trying to set fire to army engineering equipment close to the security fence.
“The IDF takes seriously any attempt to harm or deface the security fence and defense infrastructure,” the military said.
It was the second attempt to set fire to military engineering machinery, which is used to build Israel’s underground barrier with the Hamas-run enclave, and the fourth serious incident in southern Israel in as many days.
On Saturday, a group of four Palestinians infiltrated Israel near Kibbutz Kissufim and attempted to set fire to the heavy engineering equipment.
Three armed Palestinians who inflitrated from Gaza lurking around Kibbutz Ze"elim (Eshkol Regional Council)
The following night the army mistook machine-gun fire in Gaza as rockets being fired into Israel, setting off warning sirens throughout southern Israel and the deployment of 10 expensive Iron Dome interceptor missiles.
On Tuesday, three Gazans armed with grenades, knives and box cutters infiltrated Israel, making their way to the Tze’elim Army Base some 20 kilometers from the border, before being arrested.
The defense establishment is gearing up for Land Day on Friday, with the IDF deploying additional battalions and snipers to prevent a mass infiltration of Gazans.
“We have deployed more than 100 sharpshooters who were called up from all of the military’s units, primarily from the special forces,” IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Gadi Eisenkot told Yediot Aharonot. “If lives are in jeopardy, there is permission to open fire.”
Eisenkot said troops have been given the green light to use live fire as a last resort to stop infiltration of Israeli territory and communities along the Gaza border.
“The orders are to use a lot of force” if necessary, he said.
Border Police units will also take part in the operation, ready to use drones to drop tear gas and other riot control and dispersal methods such as “Skunk” – a yellow mist sprayed on rioters that leaves a powerful odor of rot or sewage on whatever it touches.
“We are preparing for Land Day, and we will not let anyone cross the border, so that Israelis will have a safe Passover Seder,” said IDF Spokesman Brig.-Gen. Ronen Manelis.
He added that Hamas is responsible for everything in the Gaza Strip.
“I recommend that they don’t test us.”
In a Facebook post on Tuesday, the IDF Spokesperson’s Unit’s Arabic division urged civilians in the Gaza Strip to refrain from participating in Friday’s planned mass march, calling it a “No Return-Anarchy,” playing on the term “March of Return” used by Palestinians planning the event.
The IDF, Maj. Avichai Adraee said in a video, will be using both overt and covert means, in addition to reinforcement of troops, to prevent Gazans from crossing the border fence. Israel believes that Hamas is planning to take advantage of the presence of thousands of civilians to carry out terrorist attacks.
“We will not allow a violation of Israeli sovereignty, and we will use force if necessary,” Adraee said.
“I want to send a message to the residents of the Gaza Strip: Did Hamas solve the problems of water, unemployment, sanitation, sewage and other problems?” Or is it using “you as a tool to divert attention from its failure to solve these problems?
“Do you not understand that you are being cynically used by a terrorist group? These events and activities are of no use; they are useless and futile. Demand your rights from those who continue to oppress you while not caring about your problems and directing what you deserve and your money to build useless tunnels. The choice is yours.”
Thousands of Gazans have been demonstrating every Friday since US President Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in December. A number of Palestinian rioters have been killed on the border and hundreds more wounded.
According to the army, these demonstrations have been getting more violent in recent weeks, with protesters bringing firearms and grenades to use against IDF troops on the other side of the fence.
The recent security incidents led several lawmakers and regional council heads to criticize the army for the “failures” that, they said, have broken the trust between the military and the residents of the South.
Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman, who was touring the area together with Eisenkot on Tuesday, pushed back against the criticism, saying that while Tuesday’s infiltration incident was still under investigation, the IDF is ready for Friday’s march.
“I think the military is well prepared, we are ready for any scenario. We are doing everything so that this holiday will pass peacefully, in security and happiness,” Liberman said.