Israel deploys snipers, cameramen ahead of Gaza border riots


(JTA) — Israeli forces along the border with Gaza are preparing for mass riots by tens of thousands of Palestinians.

Hundreds of Israeli army snipers have been deployed along the fence that separates the Hamas-run enclave from Israel, Ynet reported. Hamas is organizing tens of thousands of demonstrators to riot along the border on Friday.

The riots this week are for what the Palestinians call Naksa Day, or Day of the Setback, marking Israel’s conquest of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip in the Six-Day War of 1967. Participation is expected to be high also because of Ramadan. The bulk of protesters are expected to arrive at the fence in the afternoon after prayers, Israeli army officers told Ynet.

In addition to soldiers permanently posted at the border, hundreds of troops were deployed there ahead of the event from the Nahal, Golani and Givati Brigades as well as special forces. Photographers and drone operators will document the riots.

More than 100 Palestinians have been killed in recent weeks in clashes along the border, which Hamas labeled nonviolent but which featured the hurling of firebombs at troops near the fence and attempts to breach it. Dozens died on May 14, when Hamas organized what it advertised as a “march of return” into Israel in commemoration of what the Palestinians call Nakba — a day of mourning over Israel’s creation in 1948 and the exile of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians in the war that their leaders and Arab rulers declared on the Jewish state.

Many countries, including the United Kingdom, France and Sweden, have condemned Israel for what they see as an overly aggressive response to the the protests. The United States blamed Hamas for the violence and vetoed a U.N. Security Council draft motion blaming Israel.

Additionally, Palestinians have burned hundreds of acres of land near the border by sending over kites carrying torches and helium balloons. In recent days, the Israeli army has recruited a few dozen volunteers with experience flying drones and other unmanned aircraft to intercept the fire-starting kites and balloons. They have downed hundreds safely, the Israel Broadcast Corp. reported, but hundreds more caused fires inside Israel.

The Israeli army has deployed these reservists also ahead of the Naksa Day protests.

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