Analysts: Planned Gaza march on Israeli border is a ‘futile publicity stunt’

Hamas is encouraging tens of thousands of Gaza civilians to march toward the Israeli border on Friday to confront the army. The IDF is deployed to forcefully prevent a mass incursion.

By Steve Leibowitz, World Israel News

IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot says the military will not allow mass infiltration into Israel or tolerate damage to the border barrier during a planned Palestinian march on the Gaza border with Israel on Friday. Eisenkot told the Yediot Ahronot newspaper, “‘If lives are in jeopardy, there is permission to open fire.”

The IDF has deployed more than 100 sharpshooters on the border ahead of the planned mass Palestinian protest. Citing security concerns, the Israeli military says it will enforce a “no go” zone on land adjacent to Israel’s border fence.

Hamas has erected five “tent cities” in locations along the sensitive border and envisions a six-week protest for the “right of return” of Palestinian “refugees” to Israel. The protest would end on May 15 – Nakba Day, Arabic for “Day of Catastrophe,” referring to the creation of the State of Israel and observed on Israel’s Independence Day.

IDF Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) Major General Yoav Mordechai says the IDF is taking steps to avoid confrontation during the Hamas-planned marches along the border fence. Mordechai warned that the IDF would respond harshly to provocations, telling the Arabic Alhurra TV Channel, “These are demonstrations of anarchy, and not Land Day protests. We will take harsh and tough measures against any attempt by demonstrators to reach the security fence or try to break into Israeli territory. We intend to do everything to prevent violence and terrorism.”

Palestinian Affairs expert Pinchas Inbari told World Israel News, “The concept of ‘marching on the border’ actually came from the radical Islamic Jihad in an effort to embarrass Hamas. Hamas only got involved after the idea gained traction. The recent incursion attempts by terrorists into Israel and the Gaza assassination attempt on Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah are challenges to the Hamas leadership role. The massive Hamas military parade this week was meant to send a warning to would-be challengers that Hamas remains in control of Gaza and that others best heed their power.”

“In my view Hamas will set up tents near the border, but will not allow the protesters to reach the border itself. In a way, Israel and Hamas have the same interest in this and do not want the situation to get out of control or lead to a larger confrontation,” Inbari said.

Palestinian affairs expert Yoni Ben Menachem gives more ‘credit’ to Hamas for the “March of Return,” which he describes as a “futile publicity stunt.”

‘A cynical exploitation of Palestinian refugees’

“Hamas has adopted a new way to fight with Israel, using civilians in the same way it used them as human shields during Operation Protective Edge in 2014. This march is a cynical exploitation of Palestinian refugees and a publicity stunt that has no political benefit,” Ben-Menachem said.

According to Ben-Menachem, “The refugee problem can only be solved through diplomatic means, by a body representing the Palestinians that recognizes Israel’s right to exist and not through a terrorist organization that wants to destroy it. Even if Hamas makes a huge media impact with this march, within a few weeks it will disappear into a cloud of oblivion.”

A march on the Israeli border was attempted by Palestinian “refugees” on Israel’s northern borders on Nakba Day in 2011. During that six-hour event, several hundred young Palestinian men and women tried to breach the Lebanese and Syrian borders with Israel. The IDF soldiers at the border, taken by surprise, were compelled to open fire. As a result, 10 demonstrators were killed and another 100 injured.

In Ben Menachem’s view, “Hamas is attempting to replicate Hezbollah’s attempt and turn this into an event that will last several weeks. Its basic premise is that the large media presence on the Palestinian side will provide enough protection for the Palestinian marchers to overcome the ‘fear barrier.’ In their estimation, IDF soldiers will act with great caution and won’t use live ammunition due to the media presence among the marchers.”

“No country in the world would agree to tens of thousands of demonstrators, accompanied by various kinds of media, infiltrating their borders and trying to get into their territory. Hamas is making cynical use of Palestinian refugees living in the Gaza Strip as cannon fodder against the IDF, who have to protect the border fence and cannot allow infiltration into Israeli territory at any price,” Ben Menachem said.