JERUSALEM, Israel – For the third Friday in a row, Hamas-led riots are taking place along Israel's border with the Gaza Strip, with demonstrators hurling bombs, setting tires on fire and attempting to breach the security fence.
Israel Defense Forces (IDF) prepared for round three of the "March of Return" by deploying additional troops and tanks and stationing snipers in strategic defensive positions.
By mid-afternoon Friday, soldiers responded to attempts to breach the border with live fire. They're also using crowd control measures to disperse the rioters. Palestinian sources are reporting more than 500 injuried from tear gas inhalation and rubber bullets.
Hamas officials openly declare their intention to destroy the border and liberate "Palestine."
Earlier this week, IDF Maj. Gen. (ret.) Amos Yadlin, chairman of the Institute for National Security Studies (INSS), issued a detailed analysis of the situation, which includes recommendations for Israel's response.
Yadlin says both sides declared victory in what he calls the "blatantly asymmetric conflict," Israel because so far it's prevented Hamas from achieving its goals and Hamas for reclaiming its leadership of the "Palestinian struggle" from Fatah, its rival faction headquartered in Ramallah.
According to Yadlin, Hamas has "positioned itself as leader of an unarmed, non-violent civilian protest" and, among other things, "aroused international criticism of Israel for ostensibly disproportionate use of military force in particular" and for the "blockade" of Gaza in general.
From an Israeli point of view, the IDF prevented a mass influx into Israel, "displayed an effective and deterrent response to the attempt to challenge Israeli sovereignty by means of terror under cover of 'mass marches.'"
The IDF successfully foiled attempts to plant roadside bombs along the fence, while till now, no Israeli soldiers or civilians have been killed. And last week, Israelis in Gaza perimeter communities celebrated Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread without incident, hhe noted.
Yadlin says the biggest price Israel has paid so far is "the most severe international criticism" it's faced in years.
From this point forward, he says, it's important for Israel to state its legal right to defend its internationally recognized border as any sovereign nation has the right to do.
Yadlin says Hamas exposed its real agenda, the destruction of Israel, by interspersing flags with swastikas alongside "Palestinian" flags.
He also said it's important for Israel to keep friendlier Arab leaders in Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia in the loop, especially with Arab media supporting the Hamas-led assault on the border.
At the same time, he says, Israel must prepare for increasing incitement and violence and the possibility of it spreading to areas under PA control in Judea and Samaria (also known as the West Bank).
And last but not least, Yadlin says Israel must assess the deteriorating situation in the Gaza Strip following a decade of Hamas control.
According to Israeli media, last Friday's demonstration decreased by an estimated 10,000 protesters from the previous week (from 30,000 to 20,000), while this week it's down to approximately 10,000. Nonetheless, Hamas is still planning its million-man march on May 15. That evening, the Islamic month of Ramadan begins during which Muslims abstain from food and water from dawn to dusk, breaking their fast each evening with a festive holiday meal.
Next week, Israelis will observe Memorial Day, honoring soldiers who died defending the country and those killed in terror attacks. As the somber day comes to a close Wednesday evening, Independence Day (Yom Ha'atzmaut) begins.
While Israel celebrates its rebirth, Palestinian Arabs in Judea, Samaria and Gaza observe the Nakba, a national holiday equating Israel's rebirth with a "catastrophe."
This year may prove more intense in part because of US President Donald Trump's announcement acknowledging Jerusalem as Israel's eternal capital and initiating plans to move its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Guatemala also moved its embassy to Jerusalem and Honduras is considering the same move.
Following Trump's announcement last December, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, (whose term expired in January 2009) said his government would no longer accept American involvement in peace negotiations with Israel.