Surprising Calm on Gaza Border

One week ago the Israel Defence Force (IDF) was preparing to defend the border with Gaza against massive protests designed to conceal attempts to make a significant breach in the border fence. With Saturday 30th March being the first anniversary of the start of the ‘Great March of Return’, the IDF thought Hamas would try to surpass the largest previous protests by transporting more than 50,000 people to the main protest points.

The statements from some participants were bold; 21-year old Yusef Ziyada saying:

“We will move towards the borders even if we die …
We are not leaving. We are returning to our land.”

On the day, numbers were limited to around 40,000 people, partly due to heavy rainfall, which is unusual in that area.

There was some violence on the day, prompting the Israelis to open fire. According to Palestinian health officials, that resulted in 4 deaths and as many as 300 being wounded.

However, tragic as those deaths were, there was much less violence than expected. Because negotiations were in progress between Israel and Hamas, with Egyptian and UN mediators trying to prevent further escalation in the conflict, Hamas kept most of the crowds a safe distance from the fence.

Thus the clashes were limited and fears of many deaths were not realised.

In response, the Israelis reopened the crossings with Gaza on Sunday, after keeping them closed for nearly a week following a rocket strike deep into Israel on the previous Monday.

Both the Erez crossing for people and the Kerem Shalom crossing for goods were reopened.

Some in Israel were unhappy that Benjamin Netanyahu appeared to be compromising too much with Hamas terrorists in the negotiations. He replied that the option of a large-scale military operation to destroy Hamas was still possible, but emphasised that:

I do not embark on unnecessary wars.
I want every mother and father to know that I am not
sending their children to war for nothing.”

This week, Palestinian organizers of the on-going protests said that the armed factions in Gaza have called for Friday’s demonstrations to be non-violent, as part of an emerging ceasefire deal with Israel.

One of them said the Egyptian-mediated talks between Israel and Hamas were progressing, and that a ceasefire agreement is being negotiated.