“Around 30,000 Palestinians rallied throughout the Gaza Strip on Friday during the ‘March of Return,’ a series of mass protests along the Israel-Gaza border. At least 15 Palestinians have been killed and dozens wounded during clashes with Israeli soldiers over several hours, after a number of protesters threw stones and firebombs toward soldiers stationed along the fence….The Israeli military declared the area along the border a closed military zone, responding with live ammunition and other riot control methods in hopes of dispersing the protests. The army also fired artillery at Hamas and Islamic Jihad positions in the Strip.….According to the Palestinian Health Ministry, 1,416 people were wounded: 758 from live fire, 148 from rubber-tipped bullets, 422 from inhaling tear gas and 88 from other causes. Palestinian officials said that one was killed and 237 wounded in Rafah; four were killed and 345 wounded in southern Gaza; five were killed and 286 wounded in northern Gaza; two were killed and 197 wounded in central Gaza; and three were killed and 351 wounded in Khan Yunis.”
After Gaza Clash, Israel and Palestinians Fight With Videos and Words, The New York Times
“Days after the deadly flare-up along Israel’s border with Gaza, during which Israeli troops killed 15 Palestinians, a new war — of videos and strong statements — has erupted over what happened and why….Palestinians, supported by human rights groups, view the events as a legitimate protest that was met with disproportionate force by trigger-happy Israeli soldiers. Israel says it acted judiciously to prevent a dangerous breach of its borders and sovereignty led by Hamas, the Islamic group that controls Gaza, and to protect nearby communities. The toll would have been much higher, Israel says, if the protesters had managed to break through the security barrier.”
Trapped at Gaza’s Gates, Haaretz
The editorial board writes, “Israel should view the bloody events on the Gaza border, in which 15 people have been killed and 758 wounded so far, as a warning of what is to come and make efforts to prevent an escalation that could deteriorate into large-scale conflict….Now is the time for the government to come to its senses. Instead of threatening the Palestinians with additional unnecessary killing and waiting for a catastrophe to force a change in Israeli policy, as has happened in the past, Netanyahu must prevent an escalation of the conflict. He must lower the flames, ease the cruel siege of Gaza and resume diplomatic negotiations with Abbas. Such proposals sound like a fantasy in the era of an extreme right-wing government drunk on its ‘victory’ over the Palestinians that tries to solve every problem by military means. But there is no other way of avoiding the Gaza trap.”
Israel canceled its mass deportation plan for asylum seekers after announcing Monday it has reached understanding with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. According to the deal, at least 16,000 asylum seekers will be absorbed by Western countries. There are currently 39,000 asylum seekers from Sudan and Eritrea living in Israel. Netanyahu will speak at 4 P.M. Israel time. According to an announcement from the Prime Minister’s Office, Netanyahu and Interior Minister Arye Dery were compelled to cancel the mass deportation plan to Uganda and Rwanda “because of legal considerations and political difficulties on behalf of third-party countries.” The announcement added that the deal was approved by Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit and meets the standard of international law.
The United States blocked a United Nations Security Council statement calling for an investigation of Israel’s use of force against Palestinians who massed on Gaza’s border. The statement proposed on Saturday by Kuwait called for an “independent and transparent investigation” of the Israel Defense Forces use of live fire, rubber bullets and other crown control methods to push back the estimated up to 30,000 Palestinians in six spots along the border. Some of the Palestinians threw firebombs and rocks, and planted explosives on the border, according to the IDF. The statement also expressed “grave concern at the situation at the border” and reiterated that he Palestinians have the right to “peaceful protest.”
The Israeli military on Saturday night identified 10 of the 15 people reported killed during violent protests along the Gaza security fence as members of Palestinian terrorist groups, and published a list of their names and positions in the organizations.
No inquiry into Gaza border deaths, says Israeli defense minister, Washington Post
Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman on Sunday rejected calls for an inquiry into the deaths of at least 15 Palestinians, saying that troops “deserve a commendation” for their response to protests at the Gaza border.
The new head of the left-wing Meretz party, Tamar Zandberg, called on Israeli authorities on Saturday to open an investigation into the violence that broke out on Friday along the Gaza border fence, where 15 Palestinians were reported to have been killed and 1,400 injured during massive protests. She also intimated that the Israeli military appeared to be too lax in its use of deadly force.
State Comptroller Joseph Shapira warned a year ago that the Israeli army was not prepared for a civilian uprising in the Gaza Strip, according to a report that was not made public. In the document handed to Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman and other security officials in March 2017, Shapira said Israeli soldiers were not ready for a mass attempt by civilians to cross into Israel from Gaza, Syria or the West Bank. According to Shapira, the army did not have enough of the necessary riot-control equipment.
Hamas warns new protests will go further, surprise Israel, Times of Israel
Defiant Hamas leaders warned Sunday that Palestinians would continue their protests along the Gaza fence, vowing to go beyond the barrier next time and promising fresh surprises for Israel.
Around 250 people protested in Tel Aviv on Sunday in solidarity with Gaza following a bloody weekend in which 15 Palestinians were killed. The protest was titled “Create hope, stop the next war” and protesters chanted “no to the occupation” and “In Gaza and Sderot, little girls want to stay alive.”
U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman joined hundreds of kohanim, or members of the priestly class, in blessing tens of thousands of worshippers at the Western Wall. Friedman was joined by his son and grandson in the Birkat Kohanim, or priestly blessing, raising their hands and blessing the worshippers, including many visitors from the Diaspora, on Monday, the second intermediate day of Passover in Israel. The crowd, which spilled over into all of the areas of the Western Wall plaza, also recited the prayers for the State of Israel, the safety of Israeli soldiers and for Israeli police officers.
Chemi Shalev writes, “The more Hamas persists with the “March of the Million,” as it has been dubbed, and the more it succeeds in separating the protests from acts of violence and terror, the more it will succeed in defying and embarrassing Israel as well as Mahmoud Abbas and the Palestinian Authority. If commanders of the Israel Defense Forces don’t find a way to repel efforts to breach the fence without causing so many casualties, Israel’s predicament will grow exponentially. Friday’s day of bloodshed may be quickly forgotten if it remains a solitary event, but if the bloodshed recurs over and over during the six-week campaign that is slated to culminate on the Palestinian Nakba Day in mid-May, the international community will be forced to refocus its attentions on the conflict. Criticism of, and pressure on, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, which has virtually evaporated in recent months, could return with a vengeance.”
Loveday Morris and Hazem Balousha report, “Abdul Fattah’s family is among those demanding an investigation into the Israeli response to the protest, saying videos show he posed no threat. More than 700 people were injured with live ammunition in the demonstration, according to the Palestinian Health Ministry in Gaza….Many demonstrators said they were there to protest peacefully. The family of 20-year-old Badr Sabbagh said he had just arrived to watch the demonstrations when he was shot. They rejected the Israeli army’s assertion that everyone killed was involved in violence.”
The EU’s plans to save Gaza, Al-Monitor
Uri Savir reports, “[T]he EU has been consulting with its member states, especially with new German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas and French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian, attempting to stabilize the situation. Several measures in that direction are being considered by EU policy planners. These include a humanitarian rescue package to Gaza led by the donors’ community in coordination with Norway and supervised by Mogherini. The EU is also holding deliberations with the US administration to prevent any cut in aid to the Palestinians, as proposed by US President Donald Trump.”