Hundreds of Palestinians demonstrated on the border between the Gaza Strip and Israel on Monday for a third straight night of riots, as the head of the Israel Defense Forces warned that the army would not hesitate to respond to any violence.
Gazans from so-called “night confusion units” set tires alight and rolled them toward soldiers stationed along the frontier, and lobbed improvised explosives, in a repeat of violence seen along the border the previous two nights.
As Israeli troops responded, the Hamas-run health ministry in Gaza said three Palestinians were wounded from IDF live fire and three more suffered tear gas inhalation.
One of the Hamas-linked groups behind the riots said one of its members had been seriously injured by live fire from the IDF.
There was no immediate comment from the IDF and no reports of injuries on the Israeli side.
The “night confusion units” behind the border riots do not officially tie themselves to Hamas, though their activities could not take place without the approval of the terror group that rules the Strip.
#شاهد| جانب من فعاليات “الإرباك الليلي” قرب السياج الفاصل بمنطقة خزاعة شرق خانيونس. pic.twitter.com/GmHx8fLfcv
— وكالة شهاب للأنباء (@ShehabAgency) August 30, 2021
The groups, which are affiliated with various terror factions, have said that the nightly riots on the border will continue until at least Thursday, starting at around 8 p.m. each evening.
Speaking to defense officials Monday night, IDF chief Aviv Kohavi warned that Israel would not tolerate the border riots.
“Calm and security will allow an improvement in civil conditions, but rioting and terror will lead to strong response or operation,” he said.
“We have improved our attack capability in the Gaza Strip and our operational plans and if quiet isn’t preserved in the south, we won’t hesitate to set out on another campaign,” he said. “The reality of [Gazan’s] lives can be completely different and significantly improved — but it will not be the case as long as terrorist acts of any kind continue.”
The riots took place while thousands in Tel Aviv paid last respects to Border Police officer Barel Hadaria Shmueli, who died earlier in the day, after sustaining a gunshot wound during similar riots on August 21.
Ahead of the riots Monday, Israel deployed extra troops to the border.
In the past, Gazans involved in “night confusion” activities have burned tires, hurled explosive devices, and played fake rocket alert noises in an attempt to confuse Israeli residents living near the border and harass soldiers guarding the border.
In response to Saturday’s riots, as well as two fires sparked in southern Israel by balloons carrying incendiary devices launched from Gaza, the IDF overnight Saturday-Sunday struck a Hamas military compound used for training and weapon production, and the opening of a “terror tunnel.”
The clashes came despite Israel on Thursday easing some of its restrictions on trade and movement, allowing additional goods and materials to enter Gaza. It also allowed another 1,000 Gazan businessmen to leave through the Erez Crossing with Israel to travel to the West Bank.
Gaza has seen other border protests in the past week — a major violent rally last Saturday and a second, relatively calmer, one on Wednesday.
On Saturday, the Hamas-run Gaza health ministry announced that a 13-year-old boy who had been critically injured in clashes with Israeli soldiers on August 21 succumbed to his wounds.
Omar Abu Nil was allegedly shot by Israeli forces during the violent protest that saw hundreds of Palestinian protesters approach the fence, throw stones, and burn tires. Israeli troops responded with tear gas, rubber bullets, and a form of live fire.
Besides Abu Nil, one other Palestinian and one Israeli police officer were fatally wounded during the clashes. The other Palestinian, Osama Dueij, passed away on Thursday; Hamas claimed Dueij as a member of its armed wing.
The Israeli police officer, Barel Shmueli, 21, died of his wounds at Soroka Medical Center in Beersheba Monday afternoon. Shmueli was shot at point-blank range when a Palestinian man approached a slit in a barrier where Shmueli was stationed and fired a pistol at him.
Israel and Egypt have blockaded Gaza for over a decade, saying the restrictions are necessary to prevent Hamas from arming itself and presenting an even greater threat.
Since May’s 11-day battle between Israel and Hamas, Israel has imposed even tighter restrictions on goods entering and leaving the Strip. It has also blocked Qatari subsidies from entering Gaza, a key element of the status quo ante. The two sides are still conducting indirect negotiations to reach new understandings.
But Israeli officials have vowed that there will be no significant reconstruction of Gaza — which sustained heavy damage during the recent escalation — without a prisoner exchange deal between the two sides. Hamas currently holds captive two Israeli civilians, Avera Mengistu and Hisham al-Sayed, as well as the bodies of two Israeli soldiers, Hadar Goldin and Oron Shaul.
The past few weeks have seen apparent progress in some aspects of the talks. Earlier this month, Israel, Qatar and the United Nations agreed on a new mechanism to transfer Qatari cash into Gaza. Israel also reduced some restrictions, allowing some cement, cars, and computers to enter, and for around 1,250 Gazan businessmen to leave.
A deal between the two sides for a more comprehensive ceasefire, however, has yet to materialize.