Declaring “the beginning” of the recapturing of “all of Palestine,” the terrorist organization governing Gaza organized a demonstration Friday of tens of thousands of Palestinians on the border with Israel that led to rioting and shooting attacks on Israel Defense Forces troops.
Palestinian sources said at least 14 Palestinians were killed and more than 1,000 were wounded by gunfire from Israel Defense Forces.
But the IDF said two of the Palestinians killed were members of Hamas’s elite Nukhba force, and all of the dead were terror activists aged 18 to 30, reported Israel’s YnetNews.
An IDF spokesman said Hamas is using the Friday protests to carry out terrorist attacks and warned that Israel will not allow the border fence to become an arena for terror, the Jerusalem Post reported.
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has declared Saturday a “day of national mourning” to commemorate the Palestinians killed during the demonstration Friday.
His ruling Fatah party charged Israel carried out a “massacre” against the “peaceful” Gaza protests.
Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh said in a speech at the scene of the demonstration that the “March of Return” was a declaration “that our people will not agree to keep the right of return only as a slogan.”
The Palestinians insist the refugees who fled during the 1948 war that Arab nations initiated upon Israel’s independence have a sacred right to return to their property. The Arab nations, however, had instructed the Palestinians to temporarily evacuate, promising they could return to their homes after the Arab plan to destroy the Jewish state was carried out.
Prior to the planned demonstration, regional experts were warning that the Hamas protests were meant as cover for a mass military campaign to swarm Israel’s border and stoke violence against the Jewish state, the Washington Free Beacon reported Thursday.
Speaking in Arabic, the Hamas leader said Friday the protest also was a message to President Trump that the Palestinians will not give up their right to Jerusalem and “Palestine,” a reference to the recent U.S. decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
Haniyeh said there is “no solution without the right of return,” and the Palestinians “will never recognize the Zionist entity and will never give up on Palestinian land, and on Jerusalem.”
Jerusalem, he said – meaning the whole city, not just the eastern portion – “is ours and there is no solution without the right of return,” Haniyeh said.
Hamas charter: Islam will ‘obliterate’ Israel
Hamas, which is designated by the United States as a foreign terrorist organization, believes Palestine comprises not only the disputed territories of the West Bank and Gaza, but all of the state of Israel.
The Hamas charter states: “Israel will exist and will continue to exist until Islam will obliterate it, just as it obliterated others before it.”
Hamas intends its “March of Return” to be the beginning of a six-week tent protest at the Israeli security fence, culminating in the 70th anniversary of the founding of the state of Israel on May 15. Palestinians mark that anniversary as the “Nakba,” or “catastrophe.”
The U.S. has announced it will open its new embassy in Jerusalem on the May 15 anniversary.
The Palestinians contend the right of return applies not only to the tens of thousands of refugees who are still alive but also to their descendants, who number in the millions.
Israel argues that accepting that demand would mean the end of the Jewish-majority state. The Palestinian refugees, Israel insists, should eventually become citizens of a Palestinian state, just as Jews forced out of Middle Eastern countries 70 years ago became citizens of Israel.
Einat Wilf, a prominent Israeli foreign policy expert and a former member of the Knesset, explained in a tweet Friday that when Palestinians demand “return” they are referring not only to a place but to a time: “a ‘return’ to a mythical time without Israel and Zionism.”
“Therefore, there is no such thing as ‘non-violent return.’ The very idea of ‘return’ was conceived as a means of undoing Israel,” wrote Wilf, an adjunct fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.
“When Palestinians demand ‘return’ it is both in place and time: to ‘return’ to a mythical time without Israel and Zionism.” Therefore, there is no such thing as “non-violent return”. The very idea of “return” was conceived as a means of undoing Israel. #GreatReturnMarch #UNRWA pic.twitter.com/b1WS8urdRM
— Einat Wilf (@EWilf) March 30, 2018
Prior to the demonstration, officials with the U.N. Relief Works Agency, or UNRWA, known for its anti-Israel bias, endorsed it, stoking further concerns the U.N. was setting the stage to blame Israel for any violence that could erupt, the Free Beacon said Thursday.
Omri Ceren, a managing director at The Israel Project in Washington, D.C., said Hamas was planning to use civilian protests as cover for a massive military operation that could launch another regional war.
“Hamas is trying to trigger a Passover War and the U.N. seems eager to help them,” Ceren told the Free Beacon. “Hamas is preparing thousands of civilians to rush Israel’s border, tear down the defensive fence, and provide cover as Hamas fighters flood into Israel.”
He said, prior to the demonstration Friday, that the Israelis “will do everything possible to prevent escalation and avoid casualties, but this is the kind of thing that could go really bad really quickly.”
“Meanwhile the U.N. is supporting Hamas and setting up Israel to get blamed for anything that happens to Hamas’s human shields,” Ceren said. “American lawmakers were already inclined to view the U.N. as biased and unhelpful when it comes to Israel and this can cement that view.”
On Friday, senior Hamas leader arrived at the border of Gaza with a human shield of thousands of Palestinians who were throwing Molotov cocktails and rocks at Israeli soldiers. Hamas leader Haniyeh was photographed carrying a baby.
Here is your Palestine- #Hamas leaders caught walking into a violent riot at the Israeli border carrying a Baby as a human shield. This is your Palestine. When they love their children more than they hate Jews there may be peace. pic.twitter.com/RbWeTOajTW
— Hack4Israel (@Hack4Israel) March 30, 2018
Also, the IDF said Hamas sent a 7-year-old girl across the Gaza border fence, opposite Israeli soldiers, who responded by immediately returning the girl to her to her parents.
“The Hamas terror organization uses women and children in a cynical manner, sending them to the fence and threatening their lives,” an IDF spokesman said, the Jerusalem Post reported.