The IDF sums up the first stage of Hamas’ March for Return on Friday, March 30 with the following figures: 17 dead, including at least 10 members of terrorist organizations, and 750 injured by Israeli fire (Palestinians inflate the number to 1,750.). No Israeli casualties. Most of the Palestinian casualties occurred when 15 groups tried to rush the border and attacked the IDF defenders with firearms, rocks, firebombs and attempts to plant explosives. The demonstration mustered by Hamas is estimated to have numbered 15,000 (a letdown from Hamas expectation of 40-50,000). On Saturday, March 21, clashes continued, leaving another 25 Palestinian casualties. Hamas plans the protest march, which it designates publicly as a “peaceful protest” several hundred meters from the Israeli border, to roll out over the next six weeks, with ups and downs according to critical dates. The IDF foresees the next major assault on the Gaza border occurring on April 17, the annual “Palestinian Prisoner Day.”
United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Friday called for an “independent and transparent investigation.” At a hurriedly called UN Security Council meeting, the US and Britain regretted its timing on Passover Eve, since the Israeli ambassador could not attend. The US diplomat stressed: “We are deeply saddened by the loss of life today. Bad actors who use protests as a cover to incite violence endanger innocent lives.”
IDF Spokesman Brig.-Gen. Ronen Manelis told reporters: We won’t let this turn into a ping-pong zone… If this continues we will have no choice but to respond inside the Gaza Strip.” Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas declared Saturday a national day of mourning and a general strike was called across the West Bank.