JERUSALEM, Israel – Hamas officially launches its six-week-long "March of Return" on Friday morning. It's the Islamic terror group's latest iteration of a decades-long war against Israel – the 2018 version.
As Israeli families prepare to celebrate Passover (Pesach) and the Feast of Unleavened Bread, Hamas, the Palestinian group controlling the Gaza Strip, is gearing up for more than a month of ongoing protests at the border with Israel.
While billing it as a "peaceful protest," the idea is to rally 100,000 Gazans to storm the security fence. Hamas chose "Land Day," a day when Palestinians traditionally protest Israel's presence in the Middle East, to launch their March of Return.
It's a well-thought-out, detailed plan; a deception being pitched as a non-violent gathering. And some are buying it. UNWRA, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees, for example, has played a key role in keeping two generations of "Palestinians" in "refugee camps" to be used as political fodder against Israel.
On Tuesday, the director of UNRWA operations in the Gaza Strip, Matthias Schmale, said the UN agency "supports the Palestinian right to hold peaceful gatherings and protest in non-violent ways," the Times of Israel reported.
In a letter to the Hamas committee organizing the march, Schmale offered to provide "UNWRA medical centers at the service of 'Palestinian refugees' who might sustain injuries during the march."
According to a report in the Israeli daily Israel Hayom, Hamas will set up a tent city about 800 meters (half mile) from the border to house the demonstrators.
The plan is to build to a crescendo day by day until May 15, the day after Israel's Independence Day, when Hamas hopes tens of thousands of Gazan civilians, interspersed with some military folks, will storm the security barrier, an action that could provoke a forceful response from Israeli security.
The unfortunate truth is that Palestinian Arab leaders, whether in Ramallah or the Gaza Strip, are not and have never been interested in making peace with Israel. That does not serve their purposes or their bank accounts, personal and corporate.
Organizing 100,000 Gazans under the guise of peaceful protests is a high-stakes ruse, and they know it. Hamas leaders are veteran manipulators and they understand how the crowd mentality works. Since gaining control of the Gaza Strip in 2007, Hamas has organized terror-training camps in the summer. They post videos of the exercises depicting brave Hamas jihadists (the campers) killing Israeli soldiers (played by the campers).
The March of Return, which begins on "Land Day," the national "holiday" protesting against Israel's alleged land grab from Arabs, is potentially lethal for both sides: the protesters and the soldiers.
Bar-Ilan University Prof. Hillel Frisch, a senior researcher with the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies, calls the March of Return the "latest Palestinian innovation."
"The immediate objective of the prospective fence-stormers is not so much to kill Israelis (though if that can be achieved, even better), but to get killed themselves. Their hope is that Israel will resort to force to maintain the border (as would any sovereign state) and thereby create the graphics and funerals that delegitimize Israel," he wrote.
The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) has also been preparing.
IDF Chief of General Staff Lt. Gen. Gadi Eisenkott authorized the use of live fire if Israeli lives are in danger, the Times of Israel reported.
"If the Palestinians think they will organize a march and it will pass the [border] fence and they will march into our territory, they're wrong," Eisenkot told Israel Hayom.
The Home Front Command advised Gaza-perimeter residents to carry their personal weapons with them through the end of the eight-day long holiday – Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread.
The IDF's Southern Command designated the area near the border a closed military zone.
IDF Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories, Major Gen. Yoav Mordechai, said Israel will do whatever's necessary to prevent demonstrators from reaching the security fence or infiltrating the country.
"The Israeli response will be strong and not just against the demonstrators," Arutz Sheva quoted Mordechai's statements to al-Hura television Wednesday evening.
"We intend to do everything to prevent violent demonstrations and terror demonstrations," he said.
That's what Israel's fighting a seemingly never-ending battle for its existence that requires a lot of research and preparation.
"In recent hours, we have contacted more than 20 bus company executives whom Hamas paid to encourage people who do not want to leave their houses to take part in these violent demonstrations. We warned them that anyone who uses buses to get to the violent demonstrations will see personal steps taken against him and against the company he owns," he said.
He continued. "The conferences I attended in Cairo, Brussels and the most important in the White House are important conferences because Hamas has failed," he said. "It failed in the economy, it failed to run Gaza, it failed with the reconciliation agreement, and it failed in its terrorist military project, when it invested all its millions underground in the tunnels."
And he let out a little intelligence information on the Gaza-based terror group.
"We have information that Hamas, after seeing that all its options were closed, is trying to open a direct line with Tehran, with the al Quds force, with the Iranians, in order to smuggle money and aid that unfortunately comes into the Gaza Strip."
Earlier this week, Hamas conducted a two-day military exercise involving an estimated 30,000 troops.