Ahead of U.S. Embassy Opening, Israel Doubles Number of Troops in Gaza, West Bank

Israeli troops patrol the streets of the West Bank city of Jenin, Thursday, Jan. 18, 2018. Israeli police say special forces killed a Palestinian gunman in the West Bank who allegedly killed an Israeli in a drive-by shooting earlier this month. (AP Photo/Majdi Mohammed)
AP/Majdi Mohammed

TEL AVIV – Ahead of the inauguration of the relocated U.S. embassy in Jerusalem on Monday, Israeli troops have been deployed to Gaza and the West Bank amid concerns of violent clashes with Palestinian protesters, the IDF said Saturday.

An extra two brigades are being deployed to the Gaza Strip and another in the West Bank.

Israeli officials have speculated that more than 100,000 Gazans will attempt to breach the border with Israel. The army said they were expecting to contend with several dozen “terror kites” carrying petrol bombs flown over the border as well as gunfire aimed at soldiers and explosive devices planted at the border fence.

Hamas has called for “a million martyrs” to sacrifice their lives to reclaim the land.

“We will place a million martyrs on this land until, God willing, we liberate it,” Mahmoud al-Zahar, a co-founder of Hamas, vowed this weekend. “We don’t care about [President] Donald Trump’s moves or the indifference of the Arab world.”

Hamas’s Gaza chief Yihya Sinwar also said last week that he expected hundreds of thousands of Gazans to breach the fence. Sinwar vowed that he and other senior Hamas officials were “ready to die” to end Israel’s hold over Gaza.

Recent days have seen two brush fires as a result of Gaza’s attack kites. On Friday, Gazan rioters blew up the gas pipes supplying Gaza with fuel as well as electricity infrastructure and a conveyor belt used to transfer goods into the coastal enclave from the Kerem Shalom crossing, resulting in tens of millions of shekels of damage, the IDF said.

The IDF later blew up a terror tunnel in northern Gaza.

The weekend also saw two car-ramming attacks in the the West Bank, with a soldier lightly wounded in one of them. Four firebombs were hurled at the road near the Etzion bloc outside of Jerusalem Saturday night, with no injuries reported.

On Sunday evening, Israel will celebrate Jerusalem Day, marking 51 years since the city was reunited. Monday sees the embassy opening, and Tuesday marks “Nakba” day – Arabic for the “catastrophe” of the establishment of the Jewish state. This year, Nakba day will also coincide with the start of the month of Ramadan, which usually sees a rise in clashes.

Israel Police have been laying the groundwork for security during the embassy move since the date was announced by the White House three months ago, police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said in a call with reporters.

According to Rosenfeld, over 1,000 police officers have been deployed in and around the Arnona neighborhood where the relocated embassy is set to be opened. Special patrol, border patrol and undercover units have fully coordinated with American security services to make sure the ceremony goes according to plan, he added.

Two demonstrations organized by Israeli-Arab Knesset members are scheduled to take place around the Old City in protest of the embassy opening, which have received police permits, Rosenfeld said.

“In terms of full coordination and in terms of full preparation we’ve taken every step necessary,” he added.

He stated that security measures are also in place for the rest of the week surrounding Nakba day and the upcoming first Friday of Ramadan during which thousands of Muslim and Palestinian worshipers are expected to ascend the Temple Mount.

“No doubt this is one of the most intensive weeks where security measures are concerned, both in terms of coordination and complex issues that can come up,” he concluded.

 

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