Gaza Great March of Return
There is a 95% chance that Israel will launch a large-scale military campaign to remove terrorist threats from the Hamas-run Gaza Strip in the near future, Defense Minister Naftali Bennett told The Jerusalem Post on 25 September 2020. “I have come to the conclusion that there is a 95% chance it is inevitable that we will have to launch a large campaign to restart Gaza,” he said less than a day after nearly 100 rockets were fired into the South in the latest round of violence between Israel and Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ).
The most serious escalation of violence between Israel and Gaza terrorist groups since the end of Operation Protective Edge in 2014 took place in 2019, when more than 1,500 rockets and mortar shells were fired toward Israel in 2019 from the Hamas-run Gaza Strip, the majority sent during three rounds of conflict with the blockaded coastal enclave.
Addressing concerns that the IDF would have to wage a campaign on two fronts, in Gaza and Syria, simultaneously, Bennett said the IDF has experience fighting in two areas at the same time. “The IDF knows how to act on two fronts at the same time,” he said. “But of course, strategically, you would prefer to deal with one front before the other. But we are prepared for it. And that’s one reason why we will choose the time.” Bennett, who is marking 100 days as defense minister, told the Post the coming campaign would be “totally different” than past military campaigns, and once Gaza has been “reset,” there would be years of quiet. It is not just the military operation that “will be completely different” from past campaigns, but the perspective of what Gaza will look like “the day after” will also be “completely different” than in the past, he said.
Hamas began leading protests along the Israel-Gaza fence in May 2018 aimed in large part at breaking the blockade. More than 170 Palestinians, most unarmed, have been killed by Israeli forces during the protests by November 2018. Israel said it is defending its border against infiltration attempts.
Palestinian authorities say at least 17 people were killed Friday 30 March 2018 by Israeli forces and more than 750 were hit by live rounds. According to the Palestinian Ministry of Health, more than 1,400 others were wounded at the demonstration. Thousands marched near Gaza's border with Israel to mark the 42nd anniversary of Land Day, which stems from March 30, 1976, when six unarmed Palestinian citizens of Israel were killed by Israeli forces during protests against the Israeli government's decision to expropriate massive tracts of Palestinian-owned land.
Palestinians buried their dead, with mourners calling for revenge. The United States blocked a U.N. Security Council motion 31 March 2018 calling for an investigation into Israel’s use of live ammunition against Palestinians participating in a mass protest along the Gaza Strip.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu praised soldiers for allowing the rest of the country to celebrate the Passover holiday safely. Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Liebermann rejected calls for an inquiry into the killing of at least 15 Palestinians by the military at a demonstration on the Gaza-Israel border on Friday, saying soldiers had done the right thing. "Israeli soldiers did what was necessary. I think all our soldiers deserve a medal," he told Army Radio. "As for a commission of inquiry — there won't be one," he added.
Nine Palestinians, including a journalist, died 06 April 2018 after being shot by Israeli troops during border clashes, the health ministry in the Hamas-run Gaza strip said. In addition to the nine dead, one of them a 16-year-old boy, at least 491 other people were wounded by Israeli gunfire, the health ministry said. Israeli soldiers fired tear gas, rubber bullets and live ammunition to prevent a breach of the border fence. The protesters burned tires near the fence, causing thick black smoke to rise into the air. Israel’s military said the Palestinians protesters threw several explosive devices and firebombs and said some demonstrators attempted to cross the border fence. Israel’s military estimated the number of protesters Friday to be around 20,000. That is more than in recent days, but less than the 30,000 who protested on the first day of the demonstrations on March 30.
More than 60 Palestinians were killed on 14 May 2018 in Gaza and more than 1,900 others wounded as the Israeli army fired live ammunition and teargas at protesters assembled along several points near the fence with Israel. The demonstrations were part of a weeks-long protest calling for the right of return for Palestinian refugees to the areas they were forcibly expelled from in 1948. Since the protests began on March 30, Israeli forces killed more than 100 Palestinians in the coastal enclave and wounded close to 10,500 people.
Tuesday 15 May 2018 marked the end of the Great March of Return and the commemoration of Nakba Day, a term which Palestinians use to describe their forced mass exodus from their homes during the establishment of the State of Israel. It is celebrated among Israelis as Independence Day.
Palestinian militants said on 27 October 2018 they would halt attacks into Israel from the Gaza Strip after they fired the heaviest rocket salvoes across the border since August. The Palestinian Islamic Jihad, one of the armed groups that operates in Gaza, said it fired the rockets in retaliation for Israel’s killing of four Palestinian protesters. Israel in response struck dozens of targets in the Gaza Strip. A spokesman for the militants said an Egyptian-mediated truce had been reached.
Gaza violence erupted on Sunday 12 November 2018 with a botched Israeli special forces operation inside the territory that turned deadly and prompted Hamas retaliation. The blown operation killed seven Palestinians, including a local Hamas military commander, as well as an Israeli army officer. Renewed violence in the Palestinian enclave threatened to thwart efforts to end months of unrest as Israeli air strikes killed Palestinians and destroyed a Hamas TV building while a barrage of rocket fire from the enclave left one Israeli dead on Tuesday.
Palestinian groups in the Gaza Strip announced an Egyptian-brokered ceasefire with Israel on 13 November 2018 after a severe escalation of violence threatened to descend into a full-blown war. The groups, including Hamas, issued a joint statement saying they would abide by the ceasefire as long as Israel did the same. Israel had not commented on the announcement.
Unemployment in Gaza is approaching 50 percent, according to official Palestinian figures. Gaza's 2 million residents receive only a few hours of electricity each day, tap water is undrinkable and the coastline has been polluted by tons of untreated sewage. The Israeli-Egyptian blockade greatly restricts the movement of people and goods in and out of the small territory of barely 360 square kilometers (139 square miles) making it difficult to do business or travel abroad for work, school or family reasons.
Hamas denied responsibility for the attack on Tel Aviv, saying the rockets were launched when the group's military wing was meeting with Egyptian mediators to try to strengthen a ceasefire with Israel. In an unusual step that indicated Hamas was attempting to prevent further escalation, the interior ministry in Gaza said the rocket fire went "against the national consensus" and promised to take action against the perpetrators.
Four Palestinians were killed by Israeli fire 30 March 2019 amid mass protests on the Gaza-Israel perimeter fence. The protests capped a year of demonstrations calling for Palestinian refugees to be able to return to the homes they or their families were forced from in the 1948 war that accompanied Israel's creation.
Israel reopened its crossings with Gaza on Sunday 31 March 2019 after having kept them closed for nearly a week following a rare long-distance rocket strike from the Palestinian enclave. Israeli and Hamas officials confirmed that the Erez crossing for people and Kerem Shalom crossing for goods were reopened for the first time in a week, in a sign that ceasefire talks may be advancing. The reopening of the crossings came just hours after more rockets were launched from the Gaza Strip into Israel overnight. Israeli tanks fired at Hamas military posts in response. No casualties were reported on either side.
A relatively non-violent day came 01 May 2019 when some 40,000 Palestinians rioted along the security fence marking Land Day and the first anniversary of the “Great Return” marches.
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