Palestinian ‘Naksa Day’ protests come amid heightened Gaza tensions

The preparations for Tuesday's protests come after former-Shin Bet head Avi Dichter’s comment that Israel could send troops to Gaza.

Palestinians collect tires to be burnt during a protest marking the 70th anniversary of Nakba, at the Israel-Gaza border in the southern Gaza Strip May 15, 2018 (photo credit: REUTERS)
Palestinians collect tires to be burnt during a protest marking the 70th anniversary of Nakba, at the Israel-Gaza border in the southern Gaza Strip May 15, 2018
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Palestinians are gearing up for Tuesday’s “Naksa Day” . The day is commemorated as the “setback” when Israel took over the West Bank and Gaza as well as East Jerusalem during the Six Day War. Along with Nakba Day and Land Day it makes up one of the key Palestinian protests of the spring and summer every year. This year the events come after months of protests along the Gaza border in which more than one hundred Palestinians have been killed and thousands wounded in clashes.
IDF clashes with Hamas on "Nakba Day," May 15, 2018 (IDF Spokesperson"s Unit)
Over the years Naksa Day has seen limited protests among Palestinians, but some of them have turned violent. In 2011 the Bashar Assad regime and Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine in Yarmouk camp in Damascus encouraged thousands to march on the Golan border. In clashes with Israel security forces up to thirty of the protesters were killed and the UN’s human rights chief Navi Pillay reminded Israel that it had a “duty to ensure that its security personnel avoid the use of excessive force.”
To mark the day in 2016 Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah claimed Israel was perpetuating a “dangerous cycle of violence.” In 2017 the US based Palestinian Community Network wrote that “we focus on the 1967 territories today, but we always continue organizing for liberation and return, and freedom for all our people on all our land.”
In Gaza some activists have said that they will try to cross the border on June 5 to coincide with the day. However the protests in Gaza now follow a known pattern of mass protests that Hamas launched as part of the Great Return March. Arabic media, including numerous sites connected to the Iran regime and supportive of Hezbollah, have emphasized the importance of Naksa Day online, but many of them have also sought to highlight Israel’s preparations.
TasnimNews.come notes that while Palestinians prepare for the day, “the Zionist army with its full strength is preparing to deal with possible conflicts.” even published a translated article from Yisrael HaYom, which appeared to warn Hamas about any escalation that could lead to an Israeli ground operation.
FarsNews reported that the Hamas committee responsible in Gaza for organizing protests would send “mass protesters” to the border again, referencing the marches on Nakba Day.
Shehab News, which is generally sympathetic to Hamas, also reprinted reports from Israel’s Maariv about the “anticipated standoff” on the border.
In Jerusalem Quds Media reported that local Palestinian groups had called on protesters to assemble at Damascus Gate on Tuesday. Commentator Monther Swaisy tweeted that the Naksa Day events will be a test to see if Hamas and Israel can calm the recent tensions that has seen rocket fire over the last weeks. He noted that “two important events may constitute a major shift in the evolution of the incidents; first the revival of the Palestinian commemoration of the Naksa, and Hamas seeking to bring tens of thousands to the border wall.”
The preparations for protests Tuesday come amid Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee chairman Avi Dichter’s comments Monday that Israel could send troops to Gaza to put an end to rocket fire. Hamas knows the risks of a new round of violence on Tuesday and it knows Israel has targeted its infrastructure over the last weeks. On the other hand it doesn’t want to climb down and be seen as doing nothing. Hamas may chose to keep the Naksa day protests smaller in favor of a larger protest on Friday to coincide for the Iranian-backed ‘Quds Day’ which some expect to be a larger event.