As Gaza protests continue, IDF employs new tactics to combat riots

One Palestinian was killed in Friday protests, after which the Kerem Shalom border crossing, burned by protestors, was closed by the IDF.

Palestinian demonstrators prepare to set a kite on fire to be thrown at the Israeli side during a protest demanding the right to return to their homeland, at the Israel-Gaza border in the southern Gaza Strip, May 11, 2018 (photo credit: IBRAHEEM ABU MUSTAFA/REUTERS)
Palestinian demonstrators prepare to set a kite on fire to be thrown at the Israeli side during a protest demanding the right to return to their homeland, at the Israel-Gaza border in the southern Gaza Strip, May 11, 2018
The IDF is using new, small remote-controlled aircraft with knives on their wings to counter incendiary kites launched from the Gaza Strip.
Developed by the army and the Defense Ministry’s Administration for the Development of Weapons and Technological Infrastructure (MAFAT), the IDF Southern Command use the drones to cut the wires holding the kites together, in order to prevent them from reaching Israeli fields and setting them ablaze.
The IDF decided to make operational use of the aircraft on Friday, and it has since downed more than 40 kites, according to Walla.
A senior officer in the Southern Command told The Jerusalem Post last week that small drones had already brought one down, by cutting its lines.
Damage caused at the Kerem Shalom humanitarian crossing by dozens of violent rioters under the auspices Hamas, May 11, 2018 (IDF Spokesperson"s Unit)
“Hamas can build tunnels, they have rockets, and now they are using kites? For all of those threats we have something to counter them,” he said.
Gazans have been protesting along the border with Israel for the past six weeks, especially on Fridays, as part of what organizers call the “Great March of Return,” with participants throwing stones and Molotov cocktails at troops, and dispatching fire kites toward Israeli fields.
On Friday, some of the 15,000 demonstrators burned tires, in the hope the smoke would provide cover for saboteurs to destroy and cross the security fence, and threw grenades, pipe bombs and stones at IDF troops, in the seventh consecutive weekly protest. One Palestinian, identified by the Gaza Health Ministry as 40-year-old Jaber Salem Abu Mustafa, was killed when he was shot in the chest in eastern Khan Yunis, in the southern Gaza Strip. Another 973 Palestinians were wounded, with seven reported to be in critical condition.
Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh took part in the protests, arriving at the northern part of Gaza border, encouraging the rioters.
Hamas, he said, “will not give up the weapon of the resistance, we’ll develop it. We won’t give up Palestine, from the river to the sea, and we will not recognize Israel.”
Protesters also once again set fire to the Kerem Shalom crossing at the Strip’s southern border with Israel, causing significant damage, damaging fuel and gas pipes that serves Gaza. Rioters also set the site ablaze on May 4.
Following the arson on the Palestinian side of Kerem Shalom crossing, Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman approved the recommendation of the IDF and his ministry’s Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories unit to close the crossing, except for humanitarian exceptions approved on a case-by-case basis, until it is fully repaired.
On Wednesday, Interior Minister Gilad Erdan said that Israel would harshen its treatment of those who launch flaming kites into Israel and caused millions of shekels in damage to fields belonging to communities along the border.
“The IDF accepted the directive to treat these kite operators as terrorists in every respect, something that I believe should have been done long ago,” Erdan told radio 101.5 FM. “If we need to use drones to foil the attempts to fly firebombs into Israel – then that is what we need to do.”
The senior officer in the Southern Command told the Post, “Molotov cocktails are dangerous, and all those who launch an incendiary kite are endangering themselves.” The officer added that this included children.
Officials in the Southern Command said that firing toward those who launch fire kites would need to be approved by a senior commander in the field, Walla reported.
The heads of security for the communities along the Gaza border warned residents not to touch any kites that land in Israel, saying they could be booby-trapped.
Farmers in Gaza border communities have asked the Tax Authority for compensation after more than 80 hectares (200 acres) of fields have been destroyed in fires sparked by the kites.
The IDF is preparing for Palestinians to mark Nakba Day this week, and the Gaza Division and Southern Command have increased their preparedness, deploying additional forces in anticipation of more riots and attempts to breach the Gaza security fence.
The IDF has prepared troops from the Armored Corps, snipers, and drones to face protesters at some 20 sites along the fence expected to see violent demonstrations, as opposed to the five to six demonstration sites seen so far during the weekly “March of Return” events.
Troops have also increased readiness in the West Bank, in anticipation of riots there as well.