After sc Arab Spring Israeli-Palestinian conflict, has stepped aside for other Mideast conflicts, such as Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Iranian-Saudi and Shiite-Sunni proxy wars. To bring the Palestinian case back to the agenda and media headlines the new innovations are needed, the ongoing ”knifeintifada” in Judea and Samaria and ocassional quassam-fire fro Gaza are interesting issues only in Israel, the Western mainstream media has more newsworthy material elsewhere.
The latest innovation is the idea of a massive procession of 100,000 Gazans with the objective of storming the Israel security fence around Gaza to demonstrate the return of Gaza’s refugees to their original homes. Naturally these fence-stormers will not be the original refugees, there is on some tens of thousands of them worldwide and they are at least 69 years old.
The aim of this action is not immediately to kill Israelis but to get attention by getting killed themselves. If Israel must use lethal force to protect Israelis and Israeli border the media headlines will come back. If the situation will lead to wider violent protest and self-initiated suicide terrorist acts in the West Bank and among Israel’s Arab citizens or even a full-scale intifada, the better fro Hamas side.
Promotion video by The Palestinian Information Center; Click picture below:
The ”Official” Plan
The Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center reports that preparations continue in the Gaza Strip for a mass march to Israel’s border (the “great return march”). The Palestinian organizations operating in the Gaza Strip have organized a “national committee” which in turn appointed professional committees to promote events in the internal Palestinian and international arenas. The organizers’ objective is to extend the scope of the events beyond the Gaza Strip and to promote marches not only in Gaza Strip but also simultaneous “return marches” from Lebanon, Syria and Jordan to the Israeli border. According to the organizers, they are currently coordinating with Palestinians abroad and with Israeli Arabs. One of the activists involved in media preparations is Zaher Birawi, a Palestinian activist based in Britain who is affiliated with Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood, and who in the past played a central role in organizing convoys and flotillas to the Gaza Strip.
According to the plan currently being formulated, there will be a series of ongoing events which will take place over the course of six weeks, between March 30 (Land Day) and May 15 (Nakba Day). The plan includes the erection, on Land Day, of a tent camp (or camps) near the security fence on the Israeli border, where thousands of Palestinian families will stay. The campaign will peak with a march of thousands of Palestinians to the Israeli border, probably on Nakba Day (no time table is not final).
Senior figures in the Palestinian terrorist organizations in the Gaza Strip, led by Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ), welcomed the initiative and called on the Palestinian public to participate.
According The Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center Khaled al-Batash, a PIJ operative and coordinator of the national and Islamic forces in the Gaza Strip, held a press conference with Senior Hamas figure Isma’il Radwan and senior Fatah figure Imad al-Agha, and announced the “establishment of the national authority of the border camp and march.” According to al-Batash, the committee was established through a national consensus of Hamas, Fatah, the PIJ, the PFLP, the Palestinian People’s Party and other groups. He said members of the committee included representatives of human rights organizations, clans, mukhtars, refugees’ committees, health organizations and activists from every sector of Palestinian society. He said the activities of the “great return march” would begin simultaneously in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, in coordination with Palestinians abroad and with Israeli Arabs.
The main foreign organizations leading the Campaign are following: The Popular Conference of Palestinians Abroad, The Palestinians in Europe Conference, Filistin Dayanışma Derneği (FIDDER), Intimaa – The International Campaign to Preserve the Palestinian Identity and Aaidun – the Jordanian Society for Return and Refugees.
The coordinating committee and the human rights organizations in the Gaza Strip have already begun preparing letters that will be sent in the coming days to human rights organizations around the globe, to UN agencies, foreign ministers, the International Red Cross and other organizations. The objective will be for the recipients to exert pressure on Israel not to use violence against the Palestinians during the marches and accompanying events.
Public statements of the campaign claim that the intention is non-violent protest; however events can easily get out of control, marchers might try to enter Israeli territory and it seems probable that clashes with IDF occur – and this might be the real tactical aim of the campaign.
The “great return march” events – Fence-storming – would begin on March 30th, 2018 (Land Day or Nakba), and that the so-called “march of the millions” would be held on May 14. or 15., 2018 (On May 14th, 1948 Ben-Gurion declared the state of Israel and five Arab states invaded it). The other milestones for the campaign regarding the main reference dates over the next few months are following: April 17 – Palestinian Prisoners’ Day, June 5 – the 51st anniversary of the “Naksa” (the 1967 “setback”) and November 2 – the 101st anniversary of the Balfour Declaration.
On 25th March, Hamas held a large-scale military exercise in Gaza in which it fired rockets into the Mediterranean Sea and tested its readiness for an IDF incursion.
IDF is preparing too
After Hamas came to power in the Gaza Strip more than a decade ago, it built, trained, and armed a terrorist army and guerilla force. It deliberately situated these forces in the midst of the civilian population, planting it in high-rise buildings, underground bunkers, and tunnels.
Israel and Hamas have engaged in three large-scale conflicts and numerous smaller-scale flare-ups over the past ten years. As the IDF looks to the future, it is preparing new ways to operate in this urban jungle should the need arise once again. Military drills simulate what the Israel Defense Forces will face in a new kind of ground combat in Gaza – a kind that will inevitably involve civilians amid general chaos.
Jewish News Syndicate reports about a war exercise for IDFs infantry commanders to prepare them for the challenges of combat in Gaza. The drill, held by the Givati infantry brigade, played out over a number of areas, including the southern city of Ashkelon, where officers simulated fighting in and around tall residential towers. In Gaza, such multistory buildings double as military bases for Hamas’s armed wing. The terror group uses them as command posts, lookouts, and firing positions. Such buildings will, in the IDF’s assessment, be used as positions by Hamas cells armed with shoulder-fired missiles, sniper rifles, and additional heavy firepower.
Maj. Guy Madar, a former Givati deputy battalion commander, explained, “In this last drill, we focused in a major way on the concept of the 360-degree threat. The fact is that the enemy can appear from above and below …” He added, “This exercise is about Gaza. We wanted to achieve four training goals: nighttime combat; fighting in armored vehicles; combat in urban closed areas, with a strong emphasis on tall buildings and tunnels; and focusing on the smaller units, at the level of platoons and companies.”
The training also made use of the IDF’s digital network, which links commanders to tanks and strike aircraft. The drill involved new quadcopters that recently entered service in the IDF. The drones – currently commercially made, but to be replaced by military quadcopters – have revolutionized the ability of low-ranking commanders to request and receive an aerial picture of their battle space.
There is a small obstacle with this project as the Palestinians are divided e.g after the attempted assassination of Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah in Gaza. So the major actors – the Palestinian Authority and Fatah on the one hand and Hamas and Islamic Jihad on the other – might have troubles to coordinate their actions during campaign. Also there is view that for the Muslim Brotherhood, this march is part of a wider mobilization to implement its long-held aspiration to take over the PLO.
The campaign has good financing as Hamas spent $10 million behind the scenes to fund and organize the march to Gaza’s border with Israel.
The Israeli army will do everything it can to thwart the protestors in ways that avoid bloodshed. The Israeli military intelligence has warned that violence could escalate in May on the Gaza border and in the West Bank. Maj. Gen. Herzl Halevi said that “the month of May, with the days of independence and Nakba, signal that a possible explosion is coming, [driven on the Palestinian side by] growing frustration and hopelessness. This period will demand determined fighting against terrorism, and that we make a clear distinction between civilians and terror operatives”. Israeli security forces are also bracing for a Palestinian “day of rage,” with thousands of Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank expecting to march towards the border fence on the eve of the Jewish holiday of Passover this Friday. Halevi said that “Hamas is at its lowest point because there are civilian and infrastructure crises,” suggesting that it is “running into the arms of Iran and using civilians by sending them to the security fence that divides Gaza and Israel”.
Sources: BICOM , The Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center and BESA
Update 28/3/2018 by
Palestinians in the Gaza Strip are carrying out intensive preparations for the “great return march.” The first event will be held beginning at 10:00 on Friday morning, March 30 2018. Palestinians will be brought to six locations along the border security fence . A media center will be set up on the Palestinian side of the Erez crossing. Buses will leave from all the mosques in the Gaza Strip beginning at 10:00 to bring participants to the six tent camps along the border. In addition to civilians, members of Hamas and the other organizations will participate. Local committees have been appointed to organize the events in the various districts of the Gaza Strip. They are responsible for recruiting the masses, organizing transportation, and providing food, water, portable toilets and medical services. The activity will peak on May 15, 2018, Nakba Day.
Update 30.3.2018 by Israeli TV Channel 13
At least 12 Gazans have been killed and 1,000 wounded — most of the injuries due to tear gas — in clashes with IDF forces at six locations along the Gaza border. Some 30,000 protests have massed along the security fence. Arab media reported two armed terrorists were killed in a gunfight with IDF soldiers.
Update 30.3.2018 by Times of Israel
The Lebanese Armed Forces dispersed dozens of pro-Palestinian demonstrators who were heading toward Israel’s northern border Friday in solidarity with the “March of Return” protest taking place en masse in the Gaza Strip. Carrying Palestinian flags, the protesters were moving toward the border fence near the Israeli town of Avivim. Lebanese soldiers managed to disperse them near the village of Maroun al Ras, some two kilometers before they reached the fence, Israel’s Channel 10 reported.
And in addtion the Great Return March campaign is the newest component of hate education for Palestinian kids:
How can Gazan children expect a peaceful future when their elders are violently rioting and this is what they’re being taught in school? pic.twitter.com/7rAAZGmgF3
— IDF (@IDFSpokesperson) April 2, 2018
Article first published in Conflicts by Ari Rusila website.