What Hamas first billed as “peaceful demonstrations” along Gaza’s border with Israel, have been growing increasingly violent each week since the first “March of Return” on March 30. On that first Friday, ironically the Muslim Sabbath, 30,000 Gazan men, women, and children approached the fence that demarcates Gaza’s border with Israel. Most of the women and children stayed in encampments which were set up several hundred yards from the border fence, and celebrated with picnics, parties, even weddings, while groups of young Palestinian boys and men approached the border fence in multiple places, throwing stones and Molotov cocktails at the Israeli soldiers on the other side.

The Battle for Jerusalem, Pt 1 Hamas’ “March for Return”

Tent camps were set up several hundred yards from Israel’s border fence, in an area called the buffer zone (which was imposed by the IDF to protect against terrorist intrusions). Five tent camps were set up along the border, each several hundred yards from the fence, to be used by demonstrators through the May 15th march.

On each successive Friday, although the number of demonstrators diminished to about 10,000, the demonstrations intensified in their violence, to include:

  • burning thousands tires in order to create a thick oily black curtain to obscure multiple attempts to break through the border fence (The immense clouds of smoke generated the potential for a massive environmental disaster),
  • burning kites flown into Israel to ignite Israeli wheat fields and create “millions of shekels worth of damage” to Israeli property,
  • countless attempts to breach the fence by cutting it, climbing it, even burning it in order to break through and attack the Israeli soldiers,
  • small children, including a seven year old girl, sent to the fence to taunt the soldiers and be Hamas’ youngest terrorists. (Since the IDF had warned demonstrators not to approach the fence, this was particularly cynical on the part of Hamas, which is known to use its own people as human shields.)

As the confrontation along the border intensified, Israeli soldiers fired tear gas, rubber bullets, and, as a last resort, live fire.

Meanwhile, in Gaza, calls to join the march have been carried by local television, social media, and newspapers. Hamas activists circulate messages throughout Gaza, urging people to join “the great march that will set Gaza free”.

On Friday, April 20, IDF planes dropped leaflets along the Gaza Border area, warning Palestinians not to approach the fence during that day’s mass demonstrations. “You future is in your hands,” it said. “You are participating in violent disturbances. Hamas is taking advantage of you to carry out terrorist attacks. The IDF is prepared for any scenario. Stay away from the fence and do not attempt to damage it . . . . The IDF will take action against any attempt to damage the barrier and its components and any other military equipment . . . . The IDF will not allow damage to security and border infrastructures that protect Israeli citizens and will act against anyone who wants to harm Israel’s security.”

43 Palestinians have been killed since that first march, and several thousand were injured. Israel insists that they were shot when they tried to attack Israeli soldiers with weapons like fire bombs and burning kites, or came too close to the fence, or were trying to breach the border. Several of them were identified as members of Hamas and other Palestinian terrorist groups.

More to Come

But this has only been the warm-up. On May 15, the anniversary of Israel’s independence (what the Palestinians call nakba or catastrophe), Hamas is said to be planning a massive attack on the border, in which, they hope, a hundred thousand Gazans will rush the fence, overwhelm Israel’s defenses, and march to Jerusalem to take over the Temple Mount, where the al Aksa mosque and the Dome of the Rock dominate the horizon. That is what they call the “March of Return”. Harkening back to the story in the Quran in which Mohammed dreamed that he rode a winged horse to the “farthest mosque” which they claim is Jerusalem, their plan is to conquer the city and claim it for their own.

Not coincidentally, May 15th is also the day that the United States will officially open its new embassy in Jerusalem. And President Trump is sending a massive official delegation of more than 800 people from the U.S to open the embassy, including Senators, Congressmen, and a host of high-level government officials.

Trump’s courageous move to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and move our embassy there has put to rest decades of pre-election promises and post-election Presidential reneging. Three successive Presidents failed to implement The Jerusalem Embassy Act of 1995. This law authorized the President to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, but neither President Clinton, President Bush, or President Obama chose to do so. Trump’s move was long overdue.

But it was nevertheless widely condemned by governments around the world. No one was more enraged than the Palestinian factions who demand that the state of Israel be destroyed and become an Islamic Palestinian state, free of Jews. One outcome of Trump’s move was Hamas’ adopting and promoting this “March of Return” that would, if successful, “push the Israelis into the sea”.

What Will Israel Do?  

In real terms, Israel’s options are extremely limited. There is no question that hordes of Gazans cannot be allowed to break into sovereign Israeli territory and swarm into the country to claim Israel’s capital as its own.

Simply put, Israel must repel this assault by whatever means necessary in order to keep its citizens safe and its sovereignty secure. However, despite its best efforts to contain the violence, if Hamas-led Gazans are allowed to bring their hatred of Jews and Israel to the streets of Jerusalem, the outcome will be very bloody. On the other hand, if Israel is forced to confront them and stop them at the border, the confrontation will still be violent, but the violence is far more likely to be contained.

Either way, given the ferocity of Hamas’ hostility and its policy of inciting its youth to violence against Israel, the confrontation at the border, created by Hamas, may lead to a much wider conflict, as other nations rush to judgment and join the battle.

The bottom line is that regardless of any international condemnation for Israel’s use of force against the “innocent” people of Gaza, Hamas will be stopped by Israel, as is its right and its obligation to do so.

The Battle for Jerusalem, Pt 1 Hamas’ “March for Return”

Ilana Freedman is a veteran intelligence analyst and advisor in intelligence-led counter-terrorism solutions. Trained in Israel, where she lived and worked for sixteen years, she returned to the U.S., and served as CEO of Gerard Group International in Massachusetts until 2009. Since then, Ilana has been an independent consultant, working with major corporations and government agencies on security issues. Her global network of specialists and field assets provides an ongoing resource of critical, real-time intelligence and domain expertise. Ilana is the author of many articles on the terrorist threat to America and the West, and four books on Islamic terrorism.

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