The most violent event of Palestinian-backed Earth Day Friday, March 30, was a battle around the Gaza-Israeli Erez crossing between Israeli forces and marksmen of the Iran-backed Palestinian Jihad Islami, debkafile’s military sources report. The shooters were laying down fire to cover a mass Palestinian rush on the Israeli border and the crossing so as to force Israeli soldiers to shoot into the crowd. Multiple Palestinian casualties would have given Jihad the pretext for reviving its missile offensive against Israeli towns and villages which partly died down two weeks ago.
Our sources report that IDF fire was not aimed at the demonstrators but the marksmen. All the same, in the subsequent melee, one Palestinian man was killed – Mahmoud Zachout, member of a prominent Gazan family, and 14 were injured. At an early stage, members of the Hamas internal security battalion intervened. They split up – one section to stop the Jihad fire, the other, to block the procession’s march on the Israeli border. Zachout may have been killed by bullets from either side. Their source is under investigation.
debkafile has not established whether the rare collaboration between Israeli forces and Hamas was planned or that both sides happened at same point to appreciate their shared goal, which was to stop Jihad Islami violence and de-escalate the tension. The result was to save a demonstration from descending into a bloodbath.
Israeli commanders commented at the end of the day that, although all the country’s borders remained intact and Palestinian mobs were prevented from breaking through to Israeli areas, as they had planned in Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip, the turmoil may not be over. Only thousands turned up for pro-Palestinian street demonstrators in Israel and its Arab neighbors, a mere fraction of the March of a Million that was planned jointly by Iran, Hizballah, Syria and Jihad Islami, Tehran’s tool in Gaza.
The beefed up IDF military concentrations will therefore remain in place on guard against fresh outbreaks around Israel’s borders with Lebanon, Syria, Jordan and the Palestinian areas up to and during the eight-day Passover festival beginning Friday, April 6. The Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz has cancelled Passover leaves for key combat units and ordered them to stay on operational readiness.